Nebraska football is going to have their hands full with Illinois, largely due to running back Chase Brown, a strong, tough runner who can run through tacklers. He had 41 carries against Minnesota for 180 yards. He leads the NCAA in rushing yardage with 1,059 yards; leads in attempts per game with 27.43 and is second in yards per game at 151.29.
Nebraska will need to manufacture points. This means doing things like blocking punts or creating turnovers. Creating turnovers will be difficult as Illinois is 33rd nationally in turnover margin. Illinois quarterback Tommy DeVito is completing 70% of his passes with a 10 TD to 2 INT ratio, meaning he’s pretty judicious with the ball.
Illinois has the #1 defense nationally, giving up 221.1 yards per game. They are 11th nationally in sacks per game with 3.29. Egad.
Their only loss came against Indiana early in the season, when they give up 362 passing yards and allowed the Hoosiers a late score.
Can Nebraska get points through the air? It’s a possibility. The Thompson to Palmer connection, as everyone saw against Purdue, could prove pivotal.
It’d be nice to see Mark Whipple run some constraint plays like bubble or wide receiver screens to open up the middle for Anthony Grant running the ball.
Prediction: Illinois 35, Nebraska 21
I hope I’m wrong. I’d like to be wrong. It’d be nice to be wrong.
BERT has put together a decent team in only his second year. Chase Brown is a yard-churning beast, Tommy DeVito is an underrated quarterback and while the Illinois defense doesn’t appear to have any massive stars, they are playing well enough to win the Big Ten West going away.