The Illinois Football team is now reaching the point in the season where every game matters. Sitting on a 3-1 record, they are three wins shy of a bowl game, and the talent level they will be facing on both defense and offense will be much more improved.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers will be looking to defend their home territory when the Illini visit on Saturday, and the Illini will be looking to continue their offensive explosion and ruin the Huskers’ Homecoming.
On the defensive side of the ball, Nebraska is annually one of the best in college football, yet this year, Nebraska has struggled defensively. Currently, they are giving up 27 a game and over 450 yards a game, and the Illini are hoping their 20th ranked nationally offense can exploit that.
One positive is that Nebraska has been able to get pressure on the quarterback, averaging just under two and a half sacks a game. Ciante Evans, a Jim Thorpe Award Watch List cornerback, is sitting on three interceptions this year, with one of those being returned for a touchdown.
As a team, Nebraska has posted nine interceptions in this young season, almost surpassing their total from last season through four games. Those nine interceptions and an additional fumble recovery have produced 49 total points, meaning the Illini must limit their turnovers if they hope to be successful at the other Memorial Stadium.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste, another cornerback for the Huskers, has racked up 4 picks this year, and a tackle for loss. Jean-Baptiste has great speed at the cornerback position and will blanket receivers all game long.
The theme for Nebraska this season on defense is the cornerback play. They are averaging one pick for every fifteen pass attempts, as they are ranked second nationally from the 2009 season to now. This team has been quite good for a while defending the pass, so this is nothing new.
With a turnover margin of +1 per game this year, the Huskers are able to make you pay for mistakes, and Nathan Scheelhaase knows that he has to be on his game Saturday to find victory in Lincoln, Nebraska.
With a run defense that can be exploited and a passing defense that is up there with some of the best in the country, the Illini will have to limit mistakes while growing success in their run game.
Scheelhaase, the passing corps, and the running game will find success if they continue to play the game like they have been and do not try to force the ball. Look for Scheelhaase to play well, but not great, throwing for 250 yards, 2 TD’s, and a pick.
Prediction: Illini spoil homecoming, win 32-20
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