Though we question blowing Thomas' redshirt in a lost season, our bigger concern is that the kid's natural progression would point him towards making his first career start against the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday. Good luck with that, kid.
Wisconsin Badgers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini
Date and Time: Saturday, October 28, 2017, 12 p.m. ET
Location: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL
Opening College Football Odds: Wisconsin -26
Wisconsin vs. Illinois TV Coverage: ESPN
We'd forgive you if you didn't realize the Badgers were in action last Saturday afternoon against Maryland. It was another ho-hum game for Wisconsin, a 38-13 victory that won't do anything to move the needle about its season.
The powers that be on the College Football Playoff Selection Committee aren't dumb; they realize Wisconsin has been favored by at least 12.5-points in all of their games this year. The same is sure to be true for each of the next three weeks against Illinois, Indiana and Iowa before the big showdown with Michigan at Camp Randall.
We're not really sure what Lovie Smith was thinking when he brought Thomas in to run a drive for the Illini last week against Minnesota. Chayce Crouch and Jeff George Jr. have been embarrassments this year for sure, but if you're going to bring in the kid, go ahead and let him have control of the whole offense.
Instead, Thomas was used sparingly from that point forward. He's dynamic for sure with the way that he can move around outside of the pocket, and rare is going to be the play in which he gets the ball and just throws it without shifting around. Even if that was the case, you can bet that those would be one-read routes, and Wisconsin's defense should be all over that by the end of this game.
Case in point: The pick six Thomas threw that effectively ended any chance at any upset last week in Minneapolis.
Perhaps part of the reason why Smith turned to Thomas for his first career game was to inject some life into an otherwise lifeless running game.
Freshman tailback Mike Epstein, who leads the team in rushing yards by a country mile, is out for the year with a foot injury. He was averaging 6.1 yards per carry before he was hurt, and that leaves this offense in the hands of Ra'Von Bonner.
Bonner did run for a touchdown in last week's close loss to Minnesota, but he also only averaged 3.2 yards per carry.
This has been a common theme this year for the Fighting Illini. Epstein averaged 6.1 yards per carry. Take out what he has done and what Thomas did in his limited action on Saturday, and the rest of the team is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry.
Wisconsin vs. Illinois Free Picks
The other factor we haven't talked about yet is the Illinois run defense. Kobe McCray went over 100 yards on the ground last week for the Golden Gophers. Rodney Smith came darn near it. Nine rushers in totality have amassed at least 80 yards against Illinois in the team's last five games.
You think Jonathan Taylor is licking his chops at the prospects of running wild against this unit? If South Florida was able to put up three 100+ yard rushers against the Illini, it's entirely possible that Taylor does 300+ all be himself, even if he doesn't get the chance to play the whole game.
You can probably tell where we're going with this one. Thomas was a nice shot in the arm for a team that has desperately needed one, but there's a big difference between making a few nice plays against Minnesota and ultimately figuring out how to stay competitive with one of the best teams in America.
Wisconsin might be unchallenged at this point, but we can't imagine that it ends up being tested in Champaign.
College Football ATS Pick: Wisconsin -26 at BookMaker.eu
College Football Score Prediction: Wisconsin 37, Illinois 13