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College Football Odds & Picks for Illinois vs. Nebraska: Bet the Illini in This Big Ten Matchup

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Steven Branscombe/Getty Images. Pictured: Luke McCaffrey.

  • While one Big Ten game in this kickoff window is a top-10 matchup, this one is far from that.
  • Despite the weak starts to the season from both sides, both the Illini and Cornhuskers are coming off wins over Big Ten East opponents.
  • Check out BJ Cunningham's full betting guide with updated odds below.

Illinois vs. Nebraska Odds

Illinois Odds +16.5 [BET NOW]
Nebraska Odds -16.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline +500 / -711 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 60.5 [BET NOW]
Time Saturday, Noon ET
TV Big Ten Network
Odds updated Saturday morning and via PointsBet, where you get $250 FREE instantly after sign-up and your bets automatically sync to the Action app.

Both Illinois and Nebraska will look to keep the positive momentum going after both teams got their first wins of the season last weekend.

Illinois has been hit hard by COVID-19 but has been very competitive with a limited roster. The Illini will get a lot of key players back this weekend, including starting quarterback Brandon Peters, who missed the last three games due to a positive COVID-19 test. However, they now have a quarterback controversy after Isaiah Williams set a school record with 192 rushing yards against Rutgers last weekend.

Nebraska finally got its first win of the season in its home opener against Penn State. However, the 30-23 final score was very misleading as the Huskers were out-gained by over 200 yards. They’ll need some more good fortune on Saturday if they are going to cover a massive spread against the Fighting Illini.

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Illinois Fighting Illini

Offense

After struggling in their first three games, the Illini got back on track against Rutgers last weekend. The offense has been powered by one of the most explosive rushing attacks in the country. The Illini are gaining 5.1 yards per carry and rank seventh in rushing explosiveness (via College Football Data).

Most of that explosive rushing has come from sophomore running back Chase Brown, who is averaging a ridiculous 7.1 yards per attempt this season. With four of the five starters back on the offensive line, the run game is going to be a major strength for the Illini.

Even though Brandon Peters is returning on Saturday, Lovie Smith hinted that Illinois may opt for a two-quarterback system with Peters and freshman quarterback Isaiah Williams. Either way, the Illini offense is only going to get better going forward with Peters and a couple other starters returning to the lineup.

Defense

Illinois brought back 71% of its defensive production from last season, but so far the defense has struggled, ranking in the bottom 10 of college football in defensive passing and rushing success rate (via College Football Data).

However, the Illini have been incredibly successful at limiting opponents’ explosive plays. They rank 16th in explosive plays allowed and fourth in rushing explosiveness allowed (via College Football Data). That will come in handy against Nebraska, which ranks 102nd in rushing explosiveness (via College Football Data).

The secondary returns almost all of its starters. But, that unit has struggled so far, allowing 9.3 yards per pass attempt. Nonetheless, that shouldn’t be an issue against a Huskers passing attack that has been struggling in its own right through its first three games.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Offense

The Huskers offense has been struggling mightily, especially through the air. Scott Frost has had enough with Adrian Martinez and will hand the keys over to Luke McCaffery. McCaffery didn’t show much improvement in his first start against Penn State, throwing for only 152 yards on 21 attempts.

McCaffery has options to throw to like receiver Wan’Dale Robinson and tight end Jack Stoll, but it seems Frost is more interested in establishing the rushing attack. Nebraska brought back a ton of talent on the offensive line, but it lacks a consistent, go-to running back.

McCaffery and Martinez are the leading rushers for the Nebraska, which seems to be the offensive style Frost wants to run. It’s been successful so far as both quarterbacks are rushing for over 6.5 yards per carry.

However, Nebraska has major issue with starting field position. The Huskers rank 123rd in the country in average starting field position and rank 121st in points per opportunity (via College Football Data), meaning they haven’t been able to compensate for their poor field position so far.

Defense

A fumble return for a touchdown and interception last weekend may make you think that the black shirts are back. But, in the words of the great Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friend.” The Huskers gave up over 500 yards of offense to Penn State last weekend, including 5.5 yards per play and 4.7 yards per rush attempt.

The big problem for Nebraska is replacing four of the five starters up front. The Huskers haven’t been able to slow down opposing rushing attacks, as evidenced by their 78th-place ranking in defensive line yards allowed.

The strength for Nebraska is supposed to be a secondary that returned three of its four starters from last season. However, the Huskers been going in the wrong direction, allowing 8.1 yards per pass attempt (ypa), compared to only allowing 6.6 ypa one season ago.

With Peters back under center, the Illinois passing attack will be a threat once again. So, Nebraska will need to improve its play in the secondary on Saturday, or else Illinois will be able to move the ball at will.

Betting Analysis & Pick

This line is way too high for an Illinois squad that is getting a lot of key players back. The Illini should have no trouble running the ball, which will allow them to control the clock and keep Nebraska’s fast-paced offense off the field.

I only have Nebraska favored by 9.53 points, so I think there is some value on Illinois to keep this game within two touchdowns at +15.

Pick: Illinois +15. Play down to +13.5.

[Bet Illinois +15.5 now at PointsBet risk-free up to $250]

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