Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers Betting Preview
This game was originally supposed to be played in Ireland but due to COVID concerns the game was brought back to the states. Oddsmakers had to adjust the betting line to bake in a slight home-field advantage for the Illini and the line currently sits favoring Nebraska at -7 on BetUS, Bovada, and BetOnline.
A year ago Illinois went to Lincoln and came away with one of their two wins in 2020. The Illini beat Scott Frost’s team 41-23 and still fired former coach Lovie Smith at the end of the season.
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Scott Frost came to Nebraska three seasons ago after a successful run at Central Florida capped off by an undefeated season in 2017. The excitement in Lincoln to bring back a local hero has largely dulled down as the Huskers have struggled to find relevance in the Big Ten, suffering three straight seasons without a winning record.
The offense will be led by Adrian Martinez who has been the standing starter for the past three seasons. Martinez was unable to help the offense find the end zone enough last season as Nebraska ranked 12th out of 14 teams in the Big Ten in scoring.
Leading receiver Wan’Dale Robinson transferred to Kentucky this offseason from a receiving corp that struggled to connect down the field.
Defensively the Huskers have nine returning starters. They fared better than the offense, ranking 7th in the conference in points allowed per game. Last season the Illini had two running backs go for over 100 yards on the ground to lead the charge in the win.
Outside of the Nebraska game last season there wasn’t much for Illini fans to get excited about. Lovie Smith was fired after four years with the program and zero winning seasons.
Bret Bielema comes in after leaving the Big Ten for a failed stint at Arkansas and spending a few seasons with NFL teams. Bielema is best known for his ground and pound Wisconsin teams that had success in the Big Ten a decade ago.
Offensively, Illinois brings back Brandon Peters at quarterback for a sixth season in College Football after starting his career at Michigan. The strength, to Bielema’s pleasure, will be the offensive line. Kendrick Green moves on to the NFL but four starters remain, which should allow Illinois to play through the ground game.
Defensively the Illini struggled to stop the run and allowed the most yards per game in the league and the second-most points per game.
The line is consistent across most major sportsbooks with Nebraska being favored by a touchdown. BetUS, BetOnline, and Bovada all have the over/under set at 54.5 points as well. Defenses tend to be ahead of offenses early in the season when teams are still trying to find their rhythm, the under may be a play to look at here.
Illinois +7 and under 54.5 points. Both teams return more on defense than they do on offense and are more likely to struggle to score points early on in the season. Nebraska has noise around the program with the heat on Scott Frost following three losing seasons and now issues surrounding improper use of analysts.
Illinois beat the Huskers by 18 a season ago in Lincoln and should be able to stay within a touchdown. Expect the Illini to slow the game down and try to control the pace on the ground, and as long as they can limit big plays the defense should hold firm enough to stay in the game.
It wouldn’t be the craziest thing to think Bret Bielema starts off his career in Champaign with a win and the sportsbook has their odds set at +230 to win outright.