Nebraska at Illinois
Time: 7 PM CT, Friday
Spread: NEB -5.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Nebraska Cornhuskers defeated Rutgers 27-17 last week to even its mark to 2-2. This week the Huskers travel to face a much-improved Illinois team as 5.5-point favorites Friday night at 7 PM (CT) on Fox Sports 1. The game has an over/under of 46 points according to college football oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
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Nebraska suffered Week 2 and 3 losses to Oregon and Northern Illinois, but last week was able to get it back on track against the Scarlet Knights as it used a second half surge to extend its 14-10 halftime lead into a 27-17 victory. Tanner Lee was poor. The quarterback threw just 50 percent for completion (13 of 26) and managed just 109 passing yards while throwing two interceptions to match his two touchdowns. But the backfield was dominant.
Devine Ozigbo led the way with 101 yards and Nebraska had 197 rushing yards in the game. Mikale Wilbon had another 78 yards and a TD, as Nebraska averaged 4.2 yards on its 47 rushing attempts. The Huskers defense was dominant, too: Rutgers managed just 68 rushing yards and had only 194 total yards in the game, as it also watched its quarterback Kyle Bolin throw a pair of interceptions.
The defense spread the wealth out, with eight Huskers having at least three tackles in a game that saw Nebraska total three tackles for loss (and no sacks). The defensive line and defensive backs were not outstanding in putting pressure on the pocket, but Bolin was incompetent in his own decisions and the Huskers secondary took advantage of it. Whether it repeats that type of performance against Illinois or not is another matter, because the Fighting Illini have not been the pushovers in the Big Ten they are historically known to be.
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Illinois suffered its first defeat of the season last week in falling to then-No. 22 South Florida by a count of 47-23. It had defeated Ball State and Western Kentucky its first two games, and the schedule does get significantly more challenging as it enters the conference stretch. South Florida’s top two offensive weapons were simply too much for the Illini defensively. Quinton Flowers had a huge game, as the USF quarterback threw 15 of 27 for 280 yards with four TD passes and just one interception. Flowers also led the Bulls in rushing yards with 106 on 25 attempts.
The Bulls totaled 680 total yards, showing Illinois to be a weak defensive team as it usually is. Three Bulls had over 100 yards rushing, as Darius Tice and D’Ernest Johnson had 105 and 101 yards, respectively. The Illini did manage 287 passing yards, but its backfield was quiet with just 67 yards on 15 carries. Starting quarterback Jeff George Jr. did have 211 yards on 12 of 22 passing, but his two interceptions were costly.
Despite Illinois having shown several improvements from years past, Nebraska should be able to cover this spread and win by at least a touchdown. The Huskers backfield is not as dominant as South Florida’s, including its dual-threat quarterback, but it is certainly good enough to keep the pressure on Illinois which will be the difference-maker in this game.
Illinois is improved, but it also is starting a school-record 10 true freshmen, and that inexperience is also likely to prove costly, though it has helped transform the program because the young talent is good, after all.