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Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Point Spread - Pick

Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-2 SU, 1-3 ATS) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS)
College Football Week 5
Date/Time: Friday, September 29, 2017 at 8PM EST
Where: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Illinois
TV: Fox Sports 1

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper,

Point Spread: NEB -6.5/ILL +6.5
Over/Under Total: 49.5

The Nebraska Cornhuskers come to Champaign to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday in Big Ten action. Illinois sits at 2-1, having just suffered their first loss of the season to South Florida, 47-23. This is their Big Ten Conference opener and they got a little break, with the loss to USF having come on the 15th. Nebraska was able to win on Saturday, beating Rutgers, 27-17.They failed to cover the spread for the third time in four games and there are signs of things coming to a breaking point with the Cornhuskers already in 2017.

Illinois opened the season with a close 24-21 win over Ball State. They were more-impressive the next week with a 20-7 win over Western Kentucky, before getting hammered in a tough road spot against a ranked Bulls team in their last game. They look to emerge from near the Big Ten cellar this season in Lovie Smith's second season at the helm. They just hope for better this week at home after falling apart some on both sides of the ball against South Florida.

In their last game, we saw Illinois quarterback Jeff George, Jr. getting some play while starter Chayce Crouch struggled in moving the offense. How much time he gets moving forward remains to be seen. The offense has gotten a little boost with the return of receiver Mike Dudek, who missed two seasons with injuries after a promising freshman campaign. Young receiver Ricky Smalling made an impression last week with nearly 100 yards, while freshman tight end Louis Dorsey has been making strides in this offense. Freshman Mike Epstein looks to build on some nice performances at running back, as he has 4 touchdowns on the young season.

The defensive departures that Illinois dealt with in the offseason, which didn't show so much in their first two games, manifested more in their last game. Bobby Roundtree is a growing presence up-front and had a decent game against South Florida. Del'Shawn Phillips and Tre Watson are good linebackers who can make plays. Cameron Watkins, Patrick Nelson, Nate Hobbs, Jaylen Dunlap, and Ahmari Hayes make up a secondary that can shine in the right spots. Again, their last game was not one of them, with the Bulls putting up a fat 680 yards on offense. Look for them to do better against the less-threatening Nebraska offense, but this still looms as a major potential problem area for those looking for an Illinois cover this week.

Nebraska seems to be in knots. It's been a long time since they've ascended to the top of the sport and a lot of fans might not even remember a time when the Cornhuskers were a constant factor atop the sport. We hear the malcontent with Mike Riley's coaching, right on the heels of him signing an extension, which comes across as a little off-kilter. The athletic director was fired last week and Nebraska isn't putting out a good vibe right now coming off a 21-17 home loss to Northern Illinois and a ten-point win at home over a pretty bad Rutgers team.


Against Rutgers, Nebraska didn't take the lead until almost halftime. Junior quarterback Tanner Lee was off-the-mark for the most part on 13-for-26 passing with only 109 yards. He threw for two touchdowns, but also had two interceptions. They finally got a game out of RB Devine Ozigbo, who ran for over 100 yards. Mikale Wilbon added 78 yards and a TD on the ground and Nebraska could be working on a nice 1-2 combo punch at running back. The passing-game was quiet against Rutgers, but JD Spielman and De'Mornay Pierson-El each had touchdowns on the day and Stanley Morgan, Jr, could be back for this game.

The Nebraska front was fairly adept at stopping the run Saturday, something they have managed to be for the most part this season. The pass rush still hasn't really been that strong. Carlos Davis and Mick Stoltenberg have been decent up-front. Linebackers Dedrick Young, II., Chris Weber, Ben Stille, and Luke Gifford are a young but talented group of players and Marcus Newby should be back. In the secondary, Lamar Jackson, Antonio Reed, Eric Lee, Jr., and Aaron Williams are looking to pick up the slack until the team's top DB. Joshua Kalu returns, as he has missed a few games. Against Rutgers, both Reed and Gifford recorded picks.

The public-image of Nebraska is a bit low in light of some bad performances and the canning of their athletic director. It makes you wonder if Mike Riley is operating with a de-facto lame-duck status. They now face a rested Illinois team that may have fallen hard to South Florida, but has still shown some signs of life this season. It's hard to consider Nebraska the favorite against all but the worst teams in the conference, like the one they faced last week in Rutgers. Where does Illinois fall into this equation? At home, our guess is that maybe they're a slight cut above that billing and we see them covering the spread this week.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Illinois Fighting Illini plus 6.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Nebraska vs. Illinois game by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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