Illinois vs Kansas Odds & Prediction: How to Bet Friday’s NCAAF Showdown
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Reggie Love III of the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Illinois vs Kansas Odds
Illinois travels to Lawrence to face Kansas in Friday night's lone FBS vs. FBS matchup.
The Illini needed a game-winning drive to beat Toledo, 30-28, in their opening game. That wasn't the start they were looking for coming off an 8-5 season.
Illinois lost a lot of its top players on both offense and defense, but it isn't as bad as the market is implying.
Kansas took care of business against Missouri State in its opener. However, the big story was that Jalon Daniels didn't play because of a back injury. Per our own Brett McMurphy, all signs point to him suiting up Friday.
Kansas QB Jalon Daniels, who missed last week's game vs. Missouri State w/back tightness, expected to play Friday vs. Illinois, source told @ActionNetworkHQ. Daniels is Big 12 preseason Offensive Player of Year
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) September 3, 2023
Kansas has all the hype after going to its first bowl game in over a decade, but if the Jayhawks don't fix their defensive issues, they might not return to a bowl.
Bret Bielema went out and brought in quarterback transfer Luke Altmyer from Ole Miss to lead Illinois' offense.
Altmyer had a decent game in the opener, going 18-for-26 for 206 yards and two touchdowns while also running for 76 yards on five attempts.
Altmyer was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and had previously played in just one college game — the 2021 Sugar Bowl.
Bielema's offense is built on running the football. Illinois ran the ball 56.7% of the time last season, and that held true in the first game as the Illini ran on 57% of plays and averaged 4.7 yards per carry.
Star running back Chase Brown has moved on, but Reggie Love III proved to be very good in a backup role. He had an 84.8 PFF rushing grade last season while averaging 4.6 yards per carry and forcing a whopping 25 missed tackles on 72 carries last season.
Bielema's team has two NFL-caliber offensive linemen, so it shouldn't see much drop-off in the run game.
Illinois saw the departure of defensive coordinator Ryan Walters, who became the head coach at Purdue, but Aaron Henry was promoted from defensive backs coach, so there won't be much change to the system.
The Illini returned only six starters on defense, and it showed in the opener as they gave up over 400 yards against Toledo. However, Toledo ran 79 plays, which means Illinois gave up 5.3 yards per play, so it's not as bad as it looks.
Plus, this is the same defense that ranked No. 1 in the country in Finishing Drives Allowed last season.
Illinois is stacked in the front seven after bringing back its top two defensive linemen, including Jer'Zha "Johnny" Newton, who earned first-team All-American honors after posting a 91.9 run defense grade with 36 quarterback hurries.
The problem is Illinois lost three starters in the secondary, all of whom went to the NFL.
The Jayhawks return a whopping 10 starters on offense with the only starter lost being on the offensive line.
Last season, this offense was the best in the nation in EPA/Play and a unit that ranked third in explosiveness.
Daniels is now extremely comfortable in an Andy Kotelnicki offense that's very difficult to prepare for given the range of motion and formations he throws at opponents.
The Jayhawks QB posted an 80.4 PFF passing grade last season as his squad led the nation in EPA/Pass.
Daniels is a dynamic runner, but he wasn't that effective over the second half of the season. Now with a back injury, you have to ask how effective he's going to be as a runner, or if we'll see some action from backup Jason Bean.
Image via PFF.
Any team with a decent offensive line can dominate Kansas up front. The Jayhawks finished 2022 ranked 125th in Stuff Rate, 123rd in Defensive Line Yards and 123rd in EPA/Rush Allowed.
Illinois should be able to run the ball at will against Kansas in this one.
Illinois vs. Kansas
Betting Pick & Prediction
Kansas has all of the hype and flash on the offensive side of the ball, but there are real problems defensively, which is the main reason why it faded down the stretch last season.
Then you throw in the fact that Daniels likely isn't 100%, and a back injury makes it difficult for him to use his dual-threat ability.
Illinois has lost a lot on the defensive side of the ball and isn't going to produce the numbers it did last season, but being No. 1 one in the country in Finishing Drives Allowed isn't something to ignore.
Illinois has a lot of talent in its front seven, and it's capable of shutting down Kansas' rushing attack.
I only have Kansas projected as a -0.7 favorite, so I like the value on Illinois at +3 or better.
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