Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini
Date and Time: Friday, September 29, 2017, 8 p.m. ET
Location: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL
Opening College Football Odds: Nebraska -6.5
Nebraska vs. Illinois TV Coverage: FOX Sports 1
Lovie Smith has had two weeks to figure out his quarterback dilemma, and we wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a change on a permanent basis. Jeff George Jr. greatly outplayed Chayce Crouch when the Illini were last on the field at South Florida, and we have to imagine he’s going to be given his chance to start in spite of the fact that he doesn’t have the running ability that Crouch has.
The son of the famous NFL quarterback, George Jr. hasn’t been eye-popping statistically, going just 12-for-22 for 211 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in his limited game time. But the one thing he can do that Crouch can’t is work the ball down the field. Just like his daddy, George Jr. is willing to take some chances and put some zip on the football. That should play well in this game against a Nebraska defense that has been far from stellar.
Things aren’t getting any better in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers have this dark cloud hanging over their head, and the days of the Tom Osbourne and Frank Solich eras feel like eons ago.
Thus far, the team has a narrow victory over Arkansas State, losses to Oregon and Northern Illinois and a narrow victory over Rutgers to its credit. It’s hard to see Nebraska getting to a bowl game playing like that this year, though in fairness, a little more time on the clock against Oregon and one or two fewer bonehead plays on offense against NIU, and we’re talking about a 4-0 team instead of one that’s just 2-2.
9 – The number of times Tanner Lee has been intercepted this season.
Nebraska flat out has to stop beating itself. The Cornhuskers are No. 111 in the nation in total turnovers without ultimately losing a fumble anywhere along the way.
Lee was at his worst against Rutgers, going just 13-for-26 for 109 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. If the Cornhuskers can’t stop turning the ball over, they’re going to be in a lot of trouble in this game against an Illinois team that has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Nebraska vs. Illinois Free Picks
Nebraska has just one cover in its last six games dating back to last year, and many of those haven’t been all that close to the line set by the top NCAA football sportsbooks.
This feels like it’s the thud waiting to happen.
This game is the hardest of the four to handicap on Friday night for our money, but with George Jr. under center, we at least see a little bit of promise in Champaign. The one thing we’ve never questioned about Smith’s teams is whether they play hard. The Fighting Illini never give up in games, and that should serve them well from a betting perspective against their big spreads in the Big Ten this year. This isn’t one of those huge spreads obviously, but we think that passion, drive, a week off and a quarterback change will parlay into a rare conference victory, especially with the most beleaguered team in the Big Ten coming to town.
College Football ATS Pick: Illinois +6.5 at BookMaker.eu
College Football Score Prediction: Illinois 33, Nebraska 20