Illinois vs Chattanooga Odds, Picks, Preview: Why to Bet Illini in Thursday’s Late College Football Showdown

Illinois vs Chattanooga Odds, Picks, Preview: Why to Bet Illini in Thursday’s Late College Football Showdown article feature image

Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Illinois’ Reggie Love III.

Illinois vs Chattanooga Odds

Thursday, Sept 22
8:30 p.m. ET
Big Ten Network
Illinois Odds
-110o / -110u
Chattanooga Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via BetRivers. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

The Fighting Illini look to close out their non-conference schedule as they square off against the Chattanooga Mocs on Thursday night.

It will be the first time in the history of Memorial Stadium that a game is played on Thursday night.

Illinois also looks to keep its 17-0 all-time record against FCS teams intact.

Meanwhile, the Mocs are off to a strong start this season, as they're currently 3-0 on the season and ranked ninth in the coaches poll and 10th by Stats Perform.

Matching up against an FBS team is a challenge for any FCS program, but even more so when they have just three days to prepare. The Mocs head to Illinois to take on a Power Five opponent with one of the best running backs in the country.

Chattanooga has a talented quarterback, and its defense has given up no more than 20 points in each of its first three games, but how will it fare in its first FBS matchup?

Illinois Fighting Illini

The Fighting Illini aren't getting enough credit for how good they've been so far this season. Yes, they lost to Indiana, but that was a conference road game on a short week.

With a win over the Mocs, Bret Bielema can become the first head coach to start .500 or better through his first 16 games at Illinois since John Mackovic in '88-89.

Illinois has been among the best in the country on defense, led by a duo of defensive linemen — Jer'Zhan Newton and Keith Randolph Jr. — that I expect will cause severe problems for Hutchinson and the Mocs' passing attack.

The Illini rank 17th in total defense, 15th in scoring defense, 12th in third down conversion against and fifth in opposing passer rating. They're eighth in Defensive Success Rate and 10th on Defensive Finishing Drives. Illinois is one of five teams that has yet to allow a touchdown at home this season.

Running back Chase Brown is the driving force of the Illini offense. If he tops 100 rushing yards against Chattanooga, he will become the first Illini to rush for more than 100 yards in five straight games.

Brown currently leads the nation in rush yards (496) and rushes of 10 or more yards (18) through three games.

I expect another big week from him, as his eyes are set on the record books.

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Chattanooga Mocs

I think it's fair to assume most people are not familiar with the Chattanooga Mocs, so let's run through a few quick things to know.

First and foremost, Mocs is short for Mockingbirds — the State bird of Tennessee.

Head coach Rusty Wright is in his fourth year as head coach with a current record of 18-13. The Mocs have not been to the FCS playoffs since he took over, and they just missed a bid last season.

Under Wright's direction, one goal has been clear: defense. Last year the Mocs led the SoCon in interceptions, sacks and scoring defense. This season, they rank 16th in first downs allowed, 21st in turnovers gained and 10th in total defense, limiting opponents to 266.7 yards per game.

Eastern Michigan grad transfer quarterback Preston Hutchinson has been impressive so far this season. Hutchinson has completed 65.8% of his passes while racking up 752 passing yards and five passing touchdowns.

He also has tacked on four rushing touchdowns on 80 yards rushing.

Last time out against North Alabama, he became the first quarterback in four years to throw for more than 300 passing yards in a single game.

Not only is he a dual-threat quarterback, but he's also far from limited when it comes to passing options. 11 players on the Mocs have recorded at least one catch so far this season, with seven recording at least 20 receiving yards against North Alabama in their last game.

Illinois vs Chattanooga Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Illinois and Chattanooga match up statistically:

Chattanooga Offense vs. Illinois Defense
Rush Success56
Line Yards43
Pass Success11
Pass Blocking**58
Finishing Drives10
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Illinois Offense vs. Chattanooga Defense
Rush Success64
Line Yards51
Pass Success89
Pass Blocking**28
Finishing Drives109
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling33
PFF Coverage9
SP+ Special Teams85
Seconds per Play26.6 (70)
Rush Rate58.1% (40)
Data via (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.

Illinois vs Chattanooga Betting Pick

Chattanooga is a top-10 FCS team with a talented offense and a solid defense. However, I don't think its strength at the FCS level will transition over against a Big Ten opponent in Illinois.

The Mocs may be able to slow down the Illini, but at the end of the day, I don't think they can contain Brown and this Illini offense.

Yes, they have put up some big numbers against FCS opposition, but as I mentioned previously, Illinois has yet to give up a single touchdown at home this season. Scoring a touchdown against the Illini would be impressive for Chattanooga; covering a double-digit spread seems a bit far-fetched.

Illinois opened as an 18.5-point favorite on WynnBET, which I was able to grab. But I would back the Illini as high as a 21-point favorite at home here.

Pick: Illinois -17 (Play to -21)

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