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Nebraska vs. Illinois August 28 Betting Preview
We head all the way to Ireland for…
Wait, we are in exotic Champaign, Illinois, for the Big Ten Opener in Week 0. The game was scheduled for Ireland, which is why it was originally scheduled to be a conference opener in week 0, but logistical issues pushed that back to 2022, meaning the Fighting Illini get a home game, and that could be a big deal for them, given the way each of these teams is projected heading into the season.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois is a team looking to find a new identity with an old face heading back to the conference where he made his name. I think that it is fair to ask if Bret Bielema was created by Barry Alvarez and the tradition around him at Wisconsin, and this should be our first look into just how much that was the case. Bielema is in his old stomping ground, the Big Ten West, but the bookies don’t think it’ll look much like a stomping ground to Illinois unless we assume they are the ones getting stomped on.
Their 3.5 win total is one of the lowest in the Power 5, but a lot of that does have to do with the relative strength of the conference as a whole. While Ohio State is the only elite team, there are plenty of “solid” teams in the Big Ten, and I think the consensus is that Illinois doesn’t fit in that category.
I like the overall roster talent relative to expectations on this roster. Last season, they struggled with Covid-19 issues, particularly at QB, leading them to a dark, dark place that eventually got their head coach fired. That being said, the additional eligibility that each player received should help Illinois put out a respectable product. They have a bit of recruiting talent like Brandon Peters at QB and Luke Ford at TE that do give the team high-end experience and potential, even if they haven’t been great players at the college level just yet.
Nebraska has been as big of a talking point as anyone in the last 12 months who doesn’t regularly compete in the college football playoffs. Scott Frost got the job at his Alma Mater, coming off of massive seasons at UCF. Frost was supposed to be the star coach that pushed Nebraska into relevancy. Well, they are “relevant,” I guess, but more because of their outspoken nature and recent rumors of rules violations surrounding last season. A lot of people think that this season could be the beginning of the end for Frost, and a strong showing as a nationally relevant game (due to it being one of the only games this week) would be a huge boost for the program.
Nebraska has done well to mine the transfer portal and find roster fillers like Tyreke Johnson, a former 5-star from Jacksonville that transferred to Ohio State, and then to find guys trying to move up the ranks like Samori Toure. Toure was an elite receiver in the FCS, and I expect him to be the most dynamic player on the field on Saturday. Nebraska did lose Wandale Robinson to the portal, along with others, so they need the guys that came in to produce early and often.
Nebraska has more overall talent and betting coaching, in my opinion, but home field and a bunch of unknowns on each team has me leaning towards the Fighting Illini at +7.5. Take the touchdown+ at home in the first game with an experienced head coach. I don’t expect Illinois to look overmatched here, and I think they could win in the trenches more than enough to keep this game very close.
My favorite bet here is the over 54.5. These teams will be prone to mistakes, and I think the most talented players on the field are on offense. It's not uncommon to see a broken play or two lead to cheap points, and that will get us to the over here.
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