Both the Illinois Fighting Illini and Nebraska Cornhuskers secured their first victories of the season last week. On Saturday, one of the two struggling Big Ten programs will notch a second win when the two face off in Lincoln.
Illinois remains largely uncompetitive under Lovie Smith, who first took over the team in 2016. Some of the issues stem from a COVID-19 outbreak which cost the team starting quarterback Brandon Peters among other key figures, but the pandemic doesn’t account for all their issues. The passing game looks lifeless, ranking 121nd nationally in success rate despite the presence of talented receivers like Josh Imatorbhebhe. The ground game has faired somewhat better (86th in success rate), but only running back Chase Brown has distinguished himself as a reliable weapon on a weekly basis.
The situation looks even more dire on defense, Smith’s supposed area of expertise. The unit has generated little to no pass rush all season and has consistent breakdowns in coverage, resulting in a 113th rank in success rate entering the week. While the defense has started to produce more turnovers — Illinois intercepted three passes last week against Rutgers — those plays cannot sustain the group alone.
Though Nebraska has a similarly poor record this season, its offense has looked the part. It ranks 14th in rushing success rate and leans heavily into the ground game where Luke McCaffrey, Adrian Martinez, and Dedrick Mills have combined to run for 485 yards and four touchdowns. While Martinez figures to contribute less with McCaffrey now starting, the Cornhuskers’ success or failure Saturday will hinge primarily on that rushing attack.
Game Time/TV Channel/Streaming
You can watch Illinois versus Nebraska on Saturday, Nov. 21 at 12:00 p.m. ET on FS1, or you can stream it via the Fox Sports Go app with a cable or streaming service login.
Point Spread, Totals, Odds, Trends
Point spread: Illinois vs. Nebraska (-16)
Point Total: 58.5
Money line: Illinois (+480) vs. Nebraska (-770)
- Since 2015, Illinois has a 13-14-0 record against the spread on the road and 10-13-0 record as a road underdog.
- However, the Illini have faired better hitting the over. During the same period, they have a 14-13-0 over record on the road and a 12-11-0 record as a road underdog.
- Meanwhile, Nebraska hasn’t faired well against the spread. Since 2015, the program has a 12-22-2 record against the spread at home and an 8-15-2 record as a home favorite.
- Likewise, the Cornhuskers have a spotty history when it comes to hitting the over. During the same stretch, they have a 15-20-1 over record at home and an 8-16-1 over record as a home favorite.
Illinois +14.5: (37% of handle, 47% percent of bets)
Nebraska: (63% of handle, 53% percent of bets)
The Best Bet
Illinois struggles to put points on the board unless its defense forces turnovers and Nebraska shortens games with its run-heavy attack. Those elements should combine for a low-scoring affair.
Pick: Under 58.5
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