Wyoming vs. Illinois Betting Odds & Picks: Is Saturday’s Total Too Low?

Wyoming vs. Illinois Betting Odds & Picks: Is Saturday’s Total Too Low? article feature image

David Berding/Getty Images. Pictured: Chase Brown.

Wyoming vs. Illinois Odds

Saturday, Aug. 27
4 p.m. ET
Big Ten Network
Wyoming Odds
-110o / -110u
Illinois Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Wyoming travels to Champaign on Saturday to open up its season against Bret Bielema and Illinois.

Wyoming is coming off a 7-6 season but had a 2-6 conference record and will have to replace some of its best players at key positions. This marks Year 9 under Craig Bohl, who has led the Cowboys to a bowl game in five of the past six seasons.

The last Power Five team Wyoming faced was Missouri in 2019, and the Cowboys beat the Tigers as 16-point underdogs. Will they secure another upset against Illinois?

It's Illinois' second year under Bret Bielema, who unsurprisingly has turned the Illini into a run-first offense. The Fighting Illini finished 5-7 last season but did have a couple of big upsets as double-digit underdogs when they beat Penn State and Minnesota on the road.

However, they won just one game by more than 10 points last season (Northwestern in the season finale). So, can they cover as -10.5 underdogs against Wyoming?

Wyoming Cowboys

Cowboys Offense

Wyoming is not your traditional offense.

It's a run-heavy attack that had the eighth-highest rush play percentage in 2021. However, the Cowboys were really successful and averaged 5.2 yards per carry, the 16th-best mark in FBS.

Starting running back Xazavian Valladay has moved on, so that means Titus Swen takes over as the lead back.

That's actually a net positive for Wyoming because he recorded 5.9 yards per carry on 132 carries, which bested Valladay's mark of 5.1 in 2021. Swen's PFF run grade of 86.3 was also third-best in the Mountain West.

98 YARDS‼️@Titus_F_Swen with the second-longest rush in MW history and he puts @wyo_football up 41-17!#AtThePeak | #MWFB | #RideForTheBrandpic.twitter.com/cLWR29Hxyd

— Mountain West (@MountainWest) November 21, 2021

Wyoming does lose its best receiver in Isaiah Neyor — who hauled in 12 touchdowns last season — and both of its starting quarterbacks. However, the rushing attack should be the focal point in this game.

Cowboys Defense

Wyoming's defense is going through a bit of a transition. The Cowboys return only four starters and lose second-team All-American linebacker Chad Muma, who recorded 142 tackles last season.

The back end is what took the biggest hit, as the Cowboys lost both starting linebackers and four starters in the secondary. Wyoming is likely going to regress from a rank 44th in Passing Success Rate Allowed and 16th in yards per attempt allowed in 2021.

The defensive line returns three starters and adds a couple of nice transfers, including Keelan Cox from Alabama. However, with the back end being so weak, Illinois and quarterback Tommy DeVito will likely take advantage on Saturday.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Fighting Illini Offense

For the first time in a while, Illinois will have a competent quarterback under center. That's right — no more Artur Sitkowski. Instead, Tommy DeVito takes over after four years at Syracuse.

DeVito had an up-and-down career at Cuse, where he was often a victim of playing behind a horrible offensive line. In 2020, he started four games and got sacked 20 times. In 2021, he got injured in the third game of the season but was pressured 21 times in those three games, per PFF.

DeVito will probably benefit from a more traditional offense that leans heavily on the rushing attack.

The Illini finished in the top half of college football in Rushing Success Rate last year and ranked in the top 25 in Offensive Line Yards — metrics that could be vital against a Cowboys team that finished outside the top 100 in Defensive Line Yards.

Illinois also returns its top three running backs, led by Chase Brown, who averaged 5.9 yards per carry in 2021. He also ranked sixth in college football in yards after contact per attempt at 4.14, per PFF.

For Canadian football fans that actually enjoy touchdowns, may we present Chase Brown.

The Illinois RB from London, Ont. had 26 carries for 257 yards and 2 touchdowns, including this 80-yarder, against Charlotte today. #CanCon

— 3DownNation (@3DownNation) October 2, 2021

Bielema loses four starters on the offensive line but added two highly-touted JUCO prospects. He made it a point to add depth last season, so the offensive line shouldn't take too much of a step back.

It's also important to mention Alex Palczewski, the FBS leader in career starts, is back for his sixth and final season.

Fighting Illini Defense

Last season, Illinois did an unbelievable job of limiting explosive plays. It ranked second in college football in explosiveness and fifth in rushing explosiveness allowed.

But that's not to say teams weren't able to move the ball on the ground against the Illini.

Illinois finished outside the top 80 in Rushing Success Rate Allowed, Stuff Rate, Defensive Line Yards and Power Success Rate Allowed, per College Football Data.

The Illini bring back six starters from last season but are pretty thin up front and in the secondary. Additionally, their TARP rating sits at -1.5 on the defensive side of the ball.

The secondary won't be tested in this matchup with Wyoming being predominantly run-heavy, but if the defensive line doesn't improve its low rank in Defensive Line Yards and Stuff Rate, it's going to be a long afternoon.

Wyoming vs. Illinois Betting Pick

The first thing you think when you see this game is "under." But in the legendary words of Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friend." I think this total is a tad low.

These two teams did not play at the pace of one of the service academies or Wisconsin last season. Wyoming ranked 99th in plays per minute, and Illinois came in at 79th. It's not fast, but it's not the snail's pace this total reflects.

Both run-heavy offenses have advantages against the opposing rush defenses, so I'm not so sure this game is going to turn into a defensive slugfest.

I have this total projected at 53.8 with a projection of both rushing attacks gaining over 220 yards on the ground. I love the value of over 43.5 points and would play it to 48.5.

Pick: Over 43.5 (Play to 48.5) 

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