College Football Odds, Picks for Toledo vs. Illinois

College Football Odds, Picks for Toledo vs. Illinois article feature image

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Toledo vs Illinois Odds

Saturday, Sept. 2
7:30 p.m. ET
Big Ten Network
Toledo Odds
-110o / -110u
Illinois Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

The Illinois Fighting Illini welcome a fellow Midwestern team to Champaign for Week 1 when they host the Toledo Rockets on Saturday night.

Illinois wants to build on its success in Year 3 under Bret Bielema, but Toledo is a winning program that presents a tougher challenge than the average Group of Five team.

With a new starting quarterback and some new faces in the defensive backfield, the Fighting Illini have some unknowns after a breakout season last year.

Could those factors help the Rockets pull off an upset win in Big Ten territory? Let's dive into the odds and find a pick in my Toledo vs. Illinois college football betting preview.

Check out our NCAAF Betting Hub for more college football previews, predictions, news and analysis.

Toledo Rockets

Toledo will enter Champaign as one of the best Group of Five programs in the country, having accomplished everything at that level other than reaching a New Year's Six bowl game. Fresh off its second MAC Championship under head coach Jason Candle, the Rockets have the returning pieces to make things difficult for Illinois in its season opener.

Starting quarterback Dequan Finn is back for his junior season at Toledo, along with Jacquez Stuart and Jerjuan Newton, who led the team in rushing and receiving last year, respectively.

Finn stirs the drink for the Rockets offense after rushing for 631 yards and a team-leading nine touchdowns in 2022 while passing for 2,260 yards and 23 touchdowns. Ohio's Kurtis Rourke is the only other MAC quarterback considered better than Finn, so the Illini better be ready to deal with everything he has to offer.

While Toledo's offense steals the headlines, its defense is no liability. The Rockets ranked 29th in defensive EPA and seventh in Defensive Success Rate. Many of Toledo's key defenders came back for 2023, including leading tackler Dallas Gant and interception leader Quinyon Mitchell.

The Rockets have the profile of a MAC contender once again and should not be an easy out for Illinois.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois led the nation in scoring defense last year by allowing just 12.3 points per game, and even though it lost some great players in the secondary, don't expect much of a drop-off from the Fighting Illini defense.

It all starts up front for Illinois. Defensive tackles Jer’Zahn “Johnny” Newton and Keith Randolph Jr. form one of the best duos in college football, and those two present big matchup problems for the Rockets.

Newton is scattered throughout preseason All-American teams after leading the Fighting Illini with 5.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss, and Randolph showed out last year with 4.5 sacks, 13 TFLs and an interception.

The Law Firm, as they are known, leads the way for the Illinois defense, and they should make it a long day for Toledo’s offensive line.

Preseason recognition for the Law Firm ⚖️#Illini // #HTTO //

— Illinois Football (@IlliniFootball) August 24, 2023

Illinois’ stout defensive line is supported by linebackers Tarique Barnes, Seth Coleman and Gabe Jacas, who registered four sacks as a true freshman. All three returning starters can get to the quarterback, and that's good news for a revamped Illini secondary that's replacing Devon Witherspoon, Jartavius Martin and Sydney Brown.

Illinois pounded its lower-level nonconference opponents last year by beating Wyoming, 38-6, and Chattanooga, 31-0, and it has the pieces to produce a similar defensive performance against the Rockets.

If the Fighting Illini can take care of business on defense, new starting quarterback Luke Altmyer shouldn't have too much on his plate in Week 1. The former four-star quarterback found a home in Champaign after limited action in two seasons at Ole Miss, and he should thrive in offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr.’s run-first offense.

Just look at what Tommy DeVito did last year when he completed 69.6% of his passes for 2,650 yards and 15 touchdowns. DeVito struggled at times when he was at Syracuse, but he became an efficient passer at Illinois, so Altmyer also should be able to succeed within the context of Lunney’s scheme.

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Toledo vs Illinois

Betting Pick & Prediction

Illinois being favored by nine points feels too low. Yes, it no longer has Witherspoon in the secondary or Chase Brown in the backfield, but this team went 8-4 in the regular season and led the country in scoring defense.

The Fighting Illini still bring back a good chunk of key players, so it doesn’t feel too far-fetched for them to pull away and win this game by double-digits.

It’s not that Illinois’ front seven is a mismatch vs. Toledo; it’s that it's one of the best front sevens in all of college football. Newton and Randolph headline this group of future pros, and over the course of this game, they will make it more and more difficult for the Rockets offense to operate as their offensive line gets worn out.

Altmyer and the Illini offense just need to be functional, and Toledo won’t be able to keep up. Illinois should be able to pull away as its defense stymies the Rockets, and it only needs to win by 10 points to cover.

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