Illinois Fighting Illini (6-5 SU, 8-3 ATS) vs. Fresno State Bulldogs (7-4 SU, 4-6-1 ATS), 10:15 p.m. EST, College Football Week 14, Friday, December 3, 2010, Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, California
By Scotty L of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Ill 5/Fresno St +5
Over/Under Total: OFF
On Friday, the Fighting Illini of Illinois travel to West to take on the Fresno St. Bulldogs. This is the second consecutive year that these teams have met and if it is anything like last year, it should be a treat. Fresno State edged Illinois 53-52 (no overtime) in one of 2009s great shootouts. A lot is on the line here. Both teams will probably get into a lower-tier bowl game as things stand now, but a win here could increase either teams profile for perhaps a better slot.
Fresno has been a difficult team to get a read on this year. You pretty much have to throw form and comparisons out the window with this team. With Nevada, Boise State, and Hawaii atop the WAC, the Bulldogs are the best of the rest of the pack. They lost to those 3 teams, while handling their other WAC opponents with relative ease. The Bulldogs were rolling along rather well, as Nevada needed a 4th-quarter touchdown to notch a come-from-behind win against them. Then, Fresno got blanked 51-0 against a Boise State team that later lost to Nevada. Go figure. Then last Saturday, the Bulldogs needed a last-second score to edge a mediocre Idaho squad.
Illinois is another team that shows flashes of being a very good team, only to sabotage themselves with some bad showings. The Fighting Illini are a perennial Big-Ten doormat that can be a mid-pack team at their best. A 4-4 conference record shows they are somewhere in the middle this year. A 20-point flogging of Penn State and pinning the only defeat on MAC powerhouse Northern Illinois underscored their potential. A loss to 1-9 Minnesota two weeks ago, however, illustrated their issues. To their credit, they bounced back last week with a 3-touchdown win over Northwestern.
Freshman Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has endured his share of growing pains this year. His performances seems to be deteriorating slightly as the season wears on. The bright spot on offense is undeniably running back Mikel LeShourewith 1380 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Against Northwestern, he ran for an incredible 330 yards on 33 carries. Fresno will have to do well to keep LeShoure from being a big factor in this game. If Illinois doesnt establish a passing attack, LeShoure might get more attention than he wants.
Fresno State also depends on their productive backRobbie Rouse. He hurt his ribs in the Idaho game and is listed as questionable against Illinois. One imagines he will play in the final game of the regular season, but his effectiveness may be compromised. To what extent, we will not know until after the game begins. QB Ryan Colburn has also cooled off some. A big part of this game will be about which quarterback can snap out of their second-half slump and put together a big game.
At the end of the day, you have a mid-pack Big-Ten team facing an upper-half WAC team. The urge is to side with the team that has played the tougher opposition, which would be Illinois. Nevertheless, these teams seem to match up very well for what should be a close contest. Last years game shows there is little to separate these teams. Both teams last several performances offer both promise and concern. Its difficult to determine where they stand. Fresno State had Nevada on the ropes, which is very impressive. But losing 51-0 to the Broncos and scraping by Idaho was anything but promising. Illinois almost beat Michigan in OT and really put together a clinic against Northwestern. If they were that good, however, why would they lose to lowly Minnesota?
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This is a game that could go any number of ways. A 2-touchdown win on either side wouldnt even make a ripple on the surprise-meter. Illinois could have success running the ball, controlling the clock, and keeping the Bulldogs defense on the field for long stretches. But the Fresno State run defense hasnt been so bad lately. Maybe they can keep Illinois in check. In a game where it is difficult to pick a winner, lets take the home team getting points. Take Fresno State plus five points.