Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-2 SU, 1-3 ATS) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS)
NCAA Week 5
Date/Time:Friday, September 29, 2017 at 8:00 P.M. EST
Where: Memorial Stadium
TV: Fox Sports 1
by Jerbeek, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Neb -7/Ill +7
Over/Under Total: no line
The Nebraska Cornhuskers and Illinois Fighting Illini will meet in Big 10 conference play on Friday night. Nebraska got back on the winning track in week 4 with a 27-17 win over Rutgers following a tumultuous week that saw their athletic director get fired. The Cornhuskers had high expectations for the season dashed when they lost Northern Illinois in week 3 and squarely put 3rd year coach Mike Riley on the hot seat. Nebraska struggled to hold off Rutgers but prevailed with a late comeback win. The Illini were off in week 4 following a loss to South Florida.
The Cornhuskers are led by QB Tanner Lee who is a Jr. transfer from Tulane. Lee had a lot of hype coming into the season but as struggled mightily the past 3 games throwing 9 interceptions and only 7 touchdowns in the first 4 games with 3 of those interceptions being returned for touchdowns. Nebraska is expected to use a RB committee as starting RB Tre Bryant has missed the last 2 games with injury but is hoping to be back. Bryant rushed for 192 yards in the first game of the season and was having a good game against Oregon before injuring his knee. If Bryant cant go the duties will fall to Mikale Wilbon and Devine Ozigbo. Ozigbo saw his first action of the season in week 4 and responded with 101 yards on 24 carries. Nebraska was also without their leading WR in week 4 as Stanley Morgan was expecting to play but was a game time scratch. Morgan leads the Husker receivers with 299 yards. Nebraska also has injury concerns with offensive linemen Will Farniok and David Knevel missing the last week and in the defensive secondary as Josh Kalu out.
Illinois used a QB change against South Florida as Jeff George, Jr, (a familiar name to football fans) replaced starting QB Chayce Crouch. George came in and completed 12 of 22 passes for 211 yards. Head Coach Lovie Smith has not yet committed to who will start but if it is Crouch, expect a quick hook if he starts off poorly. The rushing game is led by RB Mike Epstein who has 221 yards for 3 years. WR Mike Dudek is the leading receiver with 158 yards and 1 touchdown.
Nebraska leaned on the rushing game in the win against Rutgers and I would expect them to try to do the same against Illinois. The Cornhuskers have averaged 4.1 yards per rush against teams that average 3.3 yards per rush. As stated the Husker passing game has been below average as they have gained 6.2 yards per pass attempt against teams that give up 6.3 yards per play. When combining that with the interceptions it explains the problems that the Cornhuskers have been having in moving the ball. Overall the Huskers are bit above average as they have gained 5.1 yards per play against teams that give up 4.7 yards per play.
Illinois has averaged 3.5 yards per rush against teams that give up 3.2 yards. In the passing game they have averaged 6.4 yards per attempt against teams that average 6.4. Overall they are averaging 4.9 yards per play against teams that give up 4.8 yards per play.
On defense, Nebraska spent a lot of money to bring in Defensive Coordinator Bob Diaco. The defense struggled early, especially in the first half against Oregon when they gave up 42 points; however, the Blackshirt defense has improved immensely in the past 2 games and as actually been keeping Nebraska in games. The Nebraska defense has held opponents to 3.5 yards rushing against teams that average 4.5 yards. In the passing game they have given up 6.8 yards per attempt against teams that average 7.2 yards. Overall they have given up 5.4 yards per play against teams that average 5.8 yards indicating that overall the Huskers have been a bit above average despite the perception that they have really struggled.
The Illinois defense has given up 4.2 yards per rush against teams that average 4.0 yards. In passing the Illini have given up 6.8 yards per attempt against teams that average 7.0 yards. Overall the defense has given up 5.4 yards per play against teams that average 5.3.
This will be the 5th straight year that Nebraska and Illinois have met. The Cornhuskers have won 3 of the past 4 games by an average of 32-16. Illinois is 5-10 the past 3 years as a home team underdog. Nebraska is 5-2 the past 3 years as a road favorite.
Jerbeeks Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Cornhuskers have struggled to start the season but may have gained a little confidence in their week 4 win. I think the Huskers will use the ground game to churn out a 31-17 win. My recommendation is to play Nebraska minus the 7 points. Where are you betting this game? Does your bookie give you the the option to bet on games at -105 odds? NO! He’s charging you -110 (or more!) Sports betting is a game of edges. Don’t let the house get the edge on you! Start betting at discounted odds TODAY at 5Dimes Sportsbook!