Nebraska is the favorite this Saturday, as they year a year ago against this Illinois team. Here is why we could see the Illini upset the Huskers again.
For Illinois to stay in this game they are going to need to have a big game out of their quarterback, Wes Lunt. Lunt is a veteran leader who won't be affected by playing in front of 90,000 people. He has the ability to sling the ball all over the yard, and has put together a good start to the season. On the year Lunt has thrown six touchdowns and just one interception. He is also completing over 60% of his passes and has thrown for more than 600 yards. If Illinois is in this game in the second half, it is most likely because Lunt is having a big game.
This goes hand in hand with Wes Lunt needing to have a big game for the Illini to succeed. If Wes Lunt has a big game, it probably means wide receiver Malik Turner is having one as well. Turner has the ability to beat the secondary, as his numbers show. On the year, Turner has 15 catches for 223 yards. Thats an average of 14 yards per reception. Turner has also caught three of the six touchdown passes from Lunt. If there is one guy the Nebraska secondary has to be worried about, it is Malik Turner. If he is able to spring loose for a big play or two, look for this one to stay close for longer than Husker fans are comfortable with.
The Illinois Defensive Line:
This has been the bright spot for the Illini this season. In just three games this season, the Illini defensive line has amassed 13 sacks, which is good for 13th in the country, and most teams have played four games thus far. Illinois also ranks tied for first with 4.33 sacks per game. Once again, in just three games, Illinois ranks 19th with 32 tackles for loss. Thats good for 10.67 tackles for loss per game, or third in the country. While the Illinois rushing defense has not been that great, their ability to put pressure on the quarterback in the passing game will be something to watch. If the Nebraska offensive line struggles to keep Tommy Armstrong on his feet, it could be a long day for the Nebraska offense.
We saw it last week. Nebraska is still very capable of shooting itself in the foot. Luckily for the Huskers, it did not influence the outcome. If Nebraska made a couple more mistakes against the Wildcats, who knows what could have happened. I will say, it has been a lot better this season, but Nebraska still has the boneheaded turnover from time to time. If you are Illinois, while not wanting to rely on Nebraska to shoot itself in the foot, if it does so, you have to take advantage of those situations. If Nebraska makes mistakes like last week, look for Illinois to be right in this one.
Nebraska’s Offensive Line:
There was already concerns about the depth of the offensive line for Nebraska. With Tanner Farmer out, those concerns have been realized. This is the best defensive line Nebraska has seen this season by a large margin. If Nebraska’s youth and lack of depth shows up front, the Huskers will struggle to move the ball. I expect the front four of Illinois to make a couple of plays, but if you are Nebraska you can't allow them to control the line of scrimmage. This is the most important matchup of the game. Whoever dictates the line of scrimmage will have a huge edge throughout the game. If I had to say who has the advantage right now, I would lean towards the Illinois defensive line, they're that impressive.