#159 University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign Illinivs.#160 University of Nebraska–Lincoln Cornhuskers
Written by Chris Kubala
NCAAF: Saturday, October 1, 2016, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska, 3:30 pm ET
Line: Nebraska -21; Over/Under: 54
It’s a matchup of foes from the Big Ten Conference’s West Division in the Midwest. The Illinois Fighting Illini looks to play spoiler as they travel to face the #15 Nebraska Cornhuskers Saturday afternoon. Illinois had a bye last week. In their last game, they lost 34-10 at home to Western Michigan. Nebraska remained unbeaten and picked up a 24-13 win over Northwestern on the road in their conference opener last week. This is the 14th all-time meeting between the schools. Nebraska holds a 9-3-1 edge in the series. The Fighting Illini took a 14-13 win at home last season in the most recent meeting.
Illinois was overmatched by a school from the Mid-American Conference in their last contest. The Fighting Illini gave up 437 yards of offense while finishing with 315. Illinois was down 21-0 just four seconds into the second quarter and trailed 24-7 at the half. The run game was the major factor in the game and typified Illinois’s issues: Western Michigan ran the ball 54 times for 287 yards. Illinois had 15 rushing attempts for a total of 3 yards. The mismatch on the ground negated the fact that the Fighting Illini had a 312-150 edge in passing yards. Illinois also hurt itself with two turnovers in the game.
The Fighting Illini is mediocre offensively: they are 73rd in passing (222.3 ypg) and 88th in rushing (157.3 ypg) offense this season. Illinois is 77th in scoring with 28.3 points per game. Wes Lunt is 61 of 98 passing for 665 yards with six touchdowns and an interception. Ke’Shawn Vaughn leads the team in rushing with 40 carries for 187 yards and two scores. Kendrick Foster adds 175 yards and two scores on 18 carries. Malik Turnerhas 15 receptions for 223 yards and three touchdowns to lead Illinois. No other player has more than seven catches. Chase McLaughlin hit all 11 extra points and both field goal attempts with a long of 48 yards this season.
Nebraska didn’t slip up after their big win over Oregon. The Cornhuskers went on the road and had a workmanlike victory over Northwestern to open their Big Ten slate. Nebraska took a 10-7 lead with 1:41 to play in the first half and didn’t trail again. The Cornhuskers had a 556-388 edge in total yards in the game. Nebraska held the ball for 35:23 and had 26 first downs in the game. Both teams turned the ball over twice. The Cornhuskers held a 17-13 lead late in the fourth quarter before putting the game away with just over three minutes to play.
The Cornhuskers are 56th in the nation in passing offense (243 yards per game) and 22nd in rushing offense with 242 yards per contest. Nebraska is tied for 38th in scoring offense with 38.5 points a game. The Cornhuskers are tied for 25th in scoring defense by allowing 18 points a night. Tommy Armstrong Jr. is 60 of 106 passing for 931 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception. He has 281 rushing yards and four scores. Ryker Fyfe is 2 of 5 for 41 yards and a score. Devine Ozigbo leads the team with 66 carries for 283 yards and three scores. Terrell Newby (32 carries, 187 yards, TD) and Tre Bryant (13 carries, 74 yards, TD) are solid backs. Alonzo Moore (team high 12 catches, 310 yards, 2 TD) and Jordan Westerkamp (nine receptions, 163 yards, 4 TD) are the top receiving threats.
Illinois is an overmatched team right now. They took beatings at the hands of North Carolina and Western Michigan in their last two games. The Cornhuskers have quietly taken care of business this season. Mike Riley has the team playing the way you would expect a Nebraska team to perform. The Cornhuskers are rolling along on both sides of the ball right now. Illinois is no match, especially on the road, for a diverse Nebraska offense. Give the points and take Nebraska in a romp.
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Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. He keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college, the NHL, the NBA and college basketball and MLB.