Illinois vs. Rutgers prediction and game preview. Both teams are coming off losses as the Fighting Illini visit the Scarlet Knights.
Illinois vs. Rutgers Game Preview
When: Saturday, Oct. 15 – Noon ET
Where: High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, NJ.
TV Broadcast: ESPNEWS
Illinois has the fewest wins of any Big Ten team, and to make matters worse, it doesn’t know who will be starting at quarterback this week. Wes Lunt left Saturday’s 34-31 overtime loss to Purdue in the second quarter after taking a hard hit that resulted in a roughing-the-passer penalty. Coach Lovie Smith hasn’t said exactly what Lunt’s injury is, but he did say he isn’t sure if Lunt or backup Chayce Crouch will get the start.
Rutgers doesn’t care who is under center for the Illini, just as long as that person isn’t wearing an Ohio State or Michigan uniform. The Scarlet Knights were outscored 136-0 over the last two weeks against the Buckeyes and Wolverines combined, the latter of which put up 78 points on Saturday. They’ve faced three teams currently ranked in the top five – Washington being the other – and are getting a bit of a break with a seemingly winnable game.
What to Know About Illinois
The Illini have lost four straight after winning their opener, and Smith is a bit on edge. He was asked if he’s being too lax with his team, a question he didn’t appreciate very much. The defensive-minded coach can’t be too pleased with Illinois giving up an average of 5.7 yards per play to rank 12th in the Big Ten, or that fact it has allowed 240.3 rushing yards per game over the last three.
Smith did, however, appreciate Crouch’s effort after he replaced Lunt last week. The backup finished 10-of-14 for 142 yards and was even more impressive on the ground, rushing 17 times for 137 yards and two touchdowns. He adds another dynamic that Lunt can’t bring to the offense considering Lunt has gained a total of 54 rushing yards in his career while being credited with -277 rushing yards overall when sacks are taken into account.
What to Know About Rutgers
Rutgers has scored seven points in three weeks, and only totaled 39 yards in Saturday’s loss to Michigan. It finished with two first downs and didn’t have one until late in the fourth quarter, punting 16 times. First-year coach Chris Ash has said many times he knew rebuilding the program would take some time, but the last two defeats especially show how large of a gap there is between the Scarlet Knights and the top of the conference.
Rutgers allowed 1,269 yards to the Buckeyes and Wolverines. Illinois doesn’t have nearly as much talent as those offensive units, but the Scarlet Knights are going to have to take it up a notch defensively if they want to have a chance at winning this one.
Offense: Illinois – Rutgers’ 282.5 yards per game is the worst average of the 128 FBS teams.
Defense: Illinois – Both units have had their issues, but the Scarlet Knights rank 104th nationally allowing 453.2 yards per contest.
Special Teams: Even – Illinois and Rutgers both rank in the middle of the back of the Big Ten in opponents’ punt and kickoff return yardage.
Coaching: Even – Smith and Ash both have a long way to go in order to have their respective programs competing in this conference.
Intangibles: Even – These schools haven’t met since Rutgers’ 33-0 victory in 2006.
Matchup To Watch
Illinois’ quarterback vs. Rutgers’ defense
Lunt is a pocket passer and Crouch can get it done on the ground. It’s not known yet who will start, and that will create a tough week of practice for the Scarlet Knights given the vast differences in each player’s games.
Spread: Illinois -6
Illinois vs. Rutgers Prediction
Rutgers won’t get blown out like it has the last two weeks, but Illinois will be able to succeed enough in the running game to pull out the victory.
Illinois vs. Rutgers final score prediction: Illinois 31, Rutgers 20