Texas Bowl Betting Preview: Baylor Bears vs Illinois Fighting Illini Expert Picks

Baylor Bears at Illinois Fighting Illini
Wednesday, 12/29/10, 6:00 PM EDT, TV:  ESPN
Opening Point Spread:  Baylor -2
Current Betting Line:  Baylor -1
Opening Total:  61.5
Current Total:  63

The Baylor Bears are slightly favored over the Illinois Fighting Illini in Wednesday's Texas Bowl in Houston

Baylor will be ending one of the nation’s longest bowl droughts when squaring off against Illinois in the 2010 Texas Bowl at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.  The football program will be playing in its first bowl game since the 1994 Alamo Bowl and making its 17th bowl appearance in school history.  “This is a long time coming for Baylor,” said head coach Art Briles.  “This is a reward for the efforts our football team has put forth and we’re excited about going to Houston to represent Baylor University.”  The team roared out to a 7-2 start for the season before losing its final three games and finishing the regular season with a 7-5 record.  This particular contest will feature two top-25 rushing offenses, as Illinois ranks 13th nationally with 242.33 yards per game, while Baylor ranks 23rd overall (200.50).  Baylor is 5-6 ATS on the season and currently a slight favorite on the college football lines page.

The Bears will be meeting the Fighting Illini for just the second time in school history, upsetting then No. 14 Illinois, 34-19 in Champaign, Illinois, on September 25, 1976.  Baylor will be led into this contest by sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin III, who amassed nearly 4,000 yards of total offense and throwing for a school-record 3,195 passing yards.  He ranked seven in the country by averaging 315.5 yards of total offense, helping the offense amass 478.5 total yards per game on the way to scoring 32.6 points per contest.  Griffin also has the luxury of handing the ball off to senior Jay Finley, who ran for 1,155 yards to rank second on Baylor’s single-season rushing list.

Illinois earned an invitation to Wednesday’s contest by finishing 6-6 on the year, which was a three-win improvement from last season, tying for fourth place in the Big Ten with a 4-4 conference mark.  The Fighting Illini will be making their fourth bowl appearance in 16 seasons.  “The one thing about this game, it’s Wednesday night, it’s national television, and it’s the only game on,” said coach Ron Zook.  “When I was growing up, the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I tried to watch every bowl game I could.”  The team enters having faced the 14th-toughest schedule in the nation with its opponents having a combined record of 81-50 on the season.  Illinois is 9-6 ATS as an underdog the past three years.

The Fighting Illini finished the season strong on the offensive end, averaging 42.8 points and 435.8 total yards over the last six games.  During the first six games this season, Illinois managed to score just 21.3 points per contest and 320 yards per game.  The defense also got into the action, forcing 17 of its 25 turnovers in that period, converting those miscues into 69 points.  During that same span, the Illini offense turned the ball over just five times.

Bettors will be interested in knowing that the Bears are 5-0 ATS as a favorite of 0.5 to 3.0 points, while the Fighting Illini are 1-5 ATS versus the Big 12.

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