Illinois vs. Rutgers
|Illinois Odds||+6.5 [BET NOW]|
|Rutgers Odds||-6.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-235/+195 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||52.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||12 p.m. ET|
|TV||Big Ten Network|
I’m sure nobody has this game circled on Saturday, but sometimes you have to go dumpster diving at noon to start your weekend off on the right foot.
That’s what I’ll try to do in this Big Ten matchup between two teams with a combined 1-5 record.
Let’s take a quick look at each club and then jump into where I see betting value from both a side and total perspective.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois has undoubtedly looked abysmal during an 0-3 start to the year. It’s never a good sign when a team ranks dead last in the conference in both scoring offense and defense.
That said, Illinois has dealt with extreme COVID-19 issues right from the jump. That caused Lovie Smith to turn to his fourth-string quarterback for his first career start last week against Minnesota.
If Coran Taylor does indeed get the nod again under center with Brandon Peters still sidelined, he’ll at least now have one start under his belt. Lovie could also turn to third-string quarterback Isaiah Williams, who will be available for this game.
Illinois should also get its best offensive lineman back in center Doug Kramer — the anchor up front who has 32 career starts. Star kicker James McCourt should also return in addition to defensive end Keith Randolph, who will provide a much-needed boost to a struggling defensive line that had to replace both defensive ends.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Rutgers is off to a 1-2 start, which might be better than most fans in Piscataway thought after three games of a conference-only slate.
I’m a big fan of the move to hire Greg Schiano as the new head coach. I think he’ll eventually turn this program around, but there’s a reason why he negotiated for an eight-year contract. The rebuild will take some time.
The offense is still a horror show, ranking 119th in yards per play. On the other side of the ball, experience and new schemes have led to some improvements on defense — especially up front where the Scarlet Knights actually sit in the top 10 in tackles for loss per game. It’s not a great defense by any stretch, but it’s not a bottom-20 unit like the offense.
Bets To Watch
- Illinois +6 or better
- Under 52 or higher
I think this line is too high, presumably as a result of how dreadful Illinois has looked to start the season. Despite the optics, I still have the Illini with the higher-rated offense and defense.
Rutgers did open up the season with a win at Michigan State, which may be contributing to the perception difference here. However, the Scarlet Knights were still outplayed in that game. They averaged a meager 3.9 yards per play but benefited from an obscene seven Sparty turnovers.
They also caught Indiana in a very bad situational spot, yet failed to cover in a conniving Hoosiers’ win. And last week against Ohio State, the final score was very misleading in a game the Buckeyes led 35-3 at the half. That’s despite Rutgers pulling out every trick in the book with onside kicks, throwback kick returns, a touchdown pass to an offensive lineman, etc.
Meanwhile, I don’t think Illinois is as bad as it has looked.
From an intangibles perspective, it’s pretty much a wash. Believe it or not, both teams have very good special teams units. They’ve each also had extremely good fortune in the turnover department.
Ultimately, I’m buying low on the Illini at +6 in a game I make much closer to a coin flip. There’s just too much value to pass up on. We may even catch Rutgers a little sleepy for this noon kick after a game against Ohio State and a date with Michigan on deck.
I also bet under 52.5. I expect both defensive fronts to dominate against two bad offensive lines that rank outside the top 100 in Adjusted Line Yards and have struggled in pass protection. Don’t expect too much through the air from two offenses that rank 109th and 110th in passing efficiency.
Lovie’s basic 4-3 defense with Cover 2 on the back-end can look silly against the most explosive Big Ten attacks, but it should hold up here against an anemic offense.
I ultimately trust the Illinois ground game a bit more in what could be a rock fight. Let’s just hope the turnovers and special teams swings break our way.