Illinois vs Indiana

The Big Ten will take center stage on Friday night with a border rivalry game between the Indiana Hoosiers and the Illinois Fighting Illini. This will be the first game between these teams since 2017 and just the second since 2013 with the Illini last beating Indiana in 2011. At home, the Hoosiers are slight 1.5-point favorites with the over/under set at 46 points.

Despite being underdogs, the Illini might be a step ahead of Indiana after already playing their season opener last week. Illinois dominated Wyoming 38-6 to move to 1-0 on the season. However, Bret Bielema’s team was just 2-3 on the road last season.

Meanwhile, the Hoosiers are hoping to bounce back from a dreadful 2-10 season in 2021. Tom Allen managed to keep his job after such a poor season despite Indiana going winless in conference play. Not only did the Hoosiers go 2-10 last year but only two of those losses came by less than a touchdown, so they were dominated in most games.

New Faces

After scoring just 10.4 points per game in conference games last year, the Indiana offense was in need of a massive overhaul during the offseason. In addition to having a new coordinator, Missouri transfer Connor Bazelak was brought in as the team’s new quarterback, although he’s still battling Jack Tuttle for the starting job heading into the season opener. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers lost their top three receivers and leading rushers from last year, so they’ll rely on a slew of transfers to make an immediate impact.

Defensively, Allen has almost all upperclassmen on the two-deep and a starting lineup that’s rich with seniors. A handful of transfers will also add additional depth to the Indiana defense. That being said, Big Ten opponents averaged 35 points per game against the Hoosiers last season, so a veteran group may not signal instant success in 2022.

So Far, So Good

There were plenty of positives from the Illini’s win over Wyoming last week. Admittedly, the level of competition can be questioned, but there’s still something to be said for Illinois limiting the Cowboys to just 30 passing yards. However, while the secondary looked good and the Illini forced two turnovers, they didn’t record a sack despite leading a majority of the game, which is a concern.

Meanwhile, the Illinois offense got off to a fast start and looked functional, albeit against a lesser opponent. Not surprisingly, the running game was productive, as Chase Brown averaged 7.9 yards per carry and found the end zone twice as the Illini racked up 260 rushing yards. But while new quarterback Tommy DeVito was efficient as a passer, he only averaged 5.2 yards per pass, with Illinois only having one passing play that gained at least 15 yards.

Leg Up

While underwhelming in some ways, last week’s by Illinois will help give the Illini an edge against the Hoosiers. Keep in mind that Indiana is filled with questions on both sides of the ball after last year’s 2-10 record. Both programs are doing some rebuilding, but Illinois appears to be a step ahead, making them a good bet to win on the road.

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