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Analyzing the Odds: Illinois Football travels to Kansas

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Illinois Football
Sep 2, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini linebacker Dylan Rosiek (28) tackles Toledo Rockets quarterback Dequan Finn (7) during the second half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Football is an underdog against the Kansas Jayhawks.

Week one is in the books. Illinois football travels to Lawrence to take on the Kansas Jayhawks at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. While Kansas easily defeated FCS Missouri State, the Illini struggled against Toldeo in its home opener. Illinois’ struggles against Toledo are likely why the line moved early this week.

Illinois was initially a 1.5-point underdog; they are now a 3.5-point underdog against the Jayhawks. Kansas’ offense was explosive last week despite quarterback Jaylon Daniels not playing due to a back injury. According to Bret McMurphy, he’s slated to play:

Here’s some more analysis about the Betting Odds:

Spread: +3.5

Over/Under: 54.5

Money Line: +140

Though Daniels is expected to start, no one knows how healthy he’ll be. Don’t rule out the possibility that he won’t play either. Universities aren’t required to submit injury reports, so we won’t know anything until game day. Kansas returns ten offensive starters from their 2022 team. Offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki schemed one of the best offenses in college football last season. Kansas led the country in EPA per play and was third in explosiveness.

Kotelnicki will challenge Illinois defenders’ eye discipline with formations and motion.

Daniels was one of the most explosive quarterbacks last season, leading college football in EPA per pass. However, Daniels was not as effective in the second half of the season. Much of that had to do with the increased difficulty of the schedule.

Aaron Henry’s defense struggled against Toledo at times. They surrendered over 400 yards to the Rockets but allowed 5.3 yards per play. Only six starters returned from the 2022 squad. Toledo’s ability to push Illinois’ defensive line has to be a concern. In addition, the Illini played sloppy football, committing ten penalties. However, they played better in the second half.

Do yourself a favor and fade the Kansas defense. The Jayhawks allowed 6.3 yards per play last year. They ranked 120th in success rate, 123rd in EPA per play, and 131st in havoc rate. Illinois’ offensive line wants to play better. Expect them to be extra ornery in Lawrence.

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Analyzing the Odds: Illinois is a heavy favorite versus FAU

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Illinois: Analyzing the Odds
Jan 2, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; the Illinois Fighting Illini take the field fro the the 2023 ReliaQuest Bowl against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois are heavy favorites against Florida Atlantic.

After a home loss to #7 Penn State, the Illinois Fighting Illini look to rebound against American Athletic Conference foe Florida Atlantic. The Illini are looking for answers, especially on offense, before they get deep into Big Ten Conference play. The Owls might be the perfect opponent for Illinois to work some of the kinks out of their game.

Florida Atlantic starting quarterback Casey Thompson is out for the season with an injury, so the Owls turn to Central Michigan transfer Daniel Richardson. That is not a good omen for a team coming to play a defense that looks to be revitalized. Jer’Zhan Newton and Keith Randolph had their best game of the season against Penn State.

Saturday could be a day for the Illinois offense to get going. The Owls rank 95th in scoring defense and 71st in total defense. That makes them a heavy favorite on Saturday. The Illini need to take advantage and get things right before they begin conference play in earnest.

Illinois v. Florida Atlantic Betting Odds

  • Spread: Illinois -15.5, Florida Atlantic +15.5
  • Money Line: Illinois -715, Florida Atlantic +496
  • Over/Under: 45.5

Wagering on the Illini has been a risky proposition so far this season. Illinois is 0-3 in its last five games against the spread, and the point total has gone over in one of their previous two games. Those who wager on the Owls have not fared much better. The Owls are also 0-3 in their last five games against the spread. However, Florida Atlantic’s points totals have gone over in two of its last three games.

Can they win this game?

Not only should the Illini win this game, but they should also dominate. However, we’ve been here before this season. The line in the Toledo game opened at -10 for Illinois. The line in this game opened at 13 and has since expanded to 15.5, so that’s a good sign that the sports books feel that the Illini will play well.

They need to validate what the sports books think and play well. Could there be some changes to the starting lineup? Maybe. No matter what, the Illini must dominate early and often against the Owls.

 

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Safety Matthew Bailey is out for the season for the Illini.

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Matthew Bailey is out for the season.

Matthew Bailey is the third player with a season-ending injury. 

Safety Matthew Bailey was supposed to take over “quarterbacking” the secondary this year. However, he will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.

Illini head coach Bret Bielema revealed this in his Monday press conference. Bailey played briefly in Illinois’ 30-13 loss to the Penn State Nittany Lions last Saturday. His shoulder injury is the latest in a season where health has been an issue. Bailey has played sparingly this year because of an ankle injury. He came up, grabbing his shoulder during Penn State’s first possession of the game.

Defensive coordinator Aaron Henry says Bailey is in good spirits despite the news. “Nothing really wavers him,” said defensive coordinator Aaron Henry. “Nothing really messes with his confidence.”

Bielema told reporters during his press conference that the rehabilitation timeline is about six months. The in-state recruit won’t rest on his laurels, however. Bielema also mentioned that Bailey is looking for ways to improve as he prepares for his return in 2024.

Next man up…who replaces Bailey?

After losing the likes of Devon Witherspoon and Sidney Brown to the NFL Draft, the Illini came into 2023 with a retooled, inexperienced secondary. Bailey was one of the young defensive backs that saw meaningful snaps in 2022. He tied for second on the team with three interceptions. Though his injury is significant, Illinois did address the secondary in the transfer portal.

The Illini have two options to replace Bailey in the secondary. Louisville transfer Nicario Harper is already part of the secondary rotation so he could slide into the starting lineup. Southern Illinois transfer Clayton Bush could also start. He’s also seen meaningful snaps this year and could step into the top of the rotation.

Henry and the defensive staff cross-train their defensive backs, so don’t be surprised if a cornerback or STAR like Elijah McCantos, Xavier Scott, or Prince Ford gets an opportunity to play as well.

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Playing Freshmen doesn’t mean you’re giving up on the season

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Should Illinois football play more freshmen?
Jan 2, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Bret Bielema takes the field fro the the 2023 ReliaQuest Bowl against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois football needs answers on offense. Could some of those answers be true freshmen?

There were some bright spots in Illinois‘ 30-13 home loss to Penn State. “The Firm” of Jer’Zhan Newton and Keith Randolph, Jr. had their best game of the season. The defense held Penn State quarterback Drew Allar to 5.9 yards per attempt and under 50% completions. The defensive front had its most consistent game against the run, limiting Penn State backs to 4.1 yards per rush attempt. Unfortunately, the offense still has issues.

Quarterback Luke Altmyer threw four interceptions, putting the defense in difficult positions all game. He was benched for Ball State transfer John Paddock, who fared better, throwing the only touchdown pass for the Illini.

Should the Illinois football turn to Paddock over Altmyer?

Though Paddock played better than Altmyer, it won’t matter if the offensive line doesn’t play better. Paddock threw the football well after settling in. Does that mean he gives the Illini a better chance to win? That’s hard to say. If Paddock plays well against Florida Atlantic, does that mean he’ll fare better in conference play?

In addition to quarterback, the Illini need another running back to step up next to Reggie Love III. Josh McCray has struggled, averaging just 2.5 yards per rush attempt. Frosh running back Kaden Feagin got some carries, but McCray might have to carry the load until someone plays well enough to get meaningful carries.

The best receivers on the field were freshmen.

Altmyer tried to push the football down the field. A couple of his interceptions were because his receivers could not separate from Penn State’s defensive backs. However, freshman receiver Kenari Wilcher had the biggest catch of the day, a 47-yard reception. And fellow freshman Malik Elzy hauled in a nice touchdown reception on a 50/50 ball. The Illini play a struggling FAU team this weekend. There is nothing wrong with giving Elzy, Wilcher, Ashton Hollins, and Hank Beatty some meaningful snaps to see what you have.

They will have to figure out the running game and the explosive passing game before they get into the meat and potatoes of their conference schedule.

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