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Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Free Pick 10/5/13

Illinois Fighting Illini (3-1) at Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-1)

College Football: Saturday, October 5, 2013 at 12:00 pm (Memorial Stadium)

The Line: Nebraska Cornhuskers -10.5 See the Latest Odds

TV: ESPNU HD

The Illinois Fighting Illini will have their hands full on Saturday when Illinois heads to Lincoln to face off against the Huskers.

This will be the Big Ten opener for the Huskers.  Nebraska is currently sitting at 3-1 on the season.  The Huskers have a winning record, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that fans have been disappointed with Nebraska’s performance so far this season.  The Huskers are ranked 15th in the nation in points per game, but Nebraska’s defense, the Blackshirts, are ranked 75th in the nation, giving up 27 points per game on average.  The Huskers have given up 34 points to Wyoming, 41 to UCLA and 20 to FCS South Dakota State so far this season, and you can see that there is a real cause for concern about their defensive unit in Nebraska.  The Offense is fine, scoring better than 43 points per game and rushing for an average of 280.8 this year.  I am a bit disappointed in what I have seen from Senior QB Taylor Martinez however.  Martinez has put up decent numbers, completing better than 65 percent of his passes, and having nine touchdowns compared to just one pick, but Martinez has missed some reads, and some wide open receivers this season.  The Huskers will be fine if they can get their run defense shored up, but just now entering Big Ten play, against teams that are very good on the ground will be a big challenge upcoming for the Blackshirts.

Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Free Pick 10/5/13

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois Fighting Illini are sitting at 3-1 this season as the Illini head to Lincoln on Saturday to face the Huskers.  Illinois is coming off a dominant win over the Miami of Ohio Redhawks, 50-14.  Illinois has one of the best quarterbacks in the county under center in Nathan Scheelhaase.  Scheelhaase has thrown for over 1100 yards already, with 12 touchdowns to just three picks.  The Illini quarterback is also completing better than 65 percent of his passes on the year.  Scheelhaase went off last weekend against the Redhawks, completing 19/24 for 278 yards and five scores, giving him a QBR on the day of 93.7.  The ground game for Illinois was also effective against Miami, rushing for a combined 289 yards on just 43 attempts, averaging better than 6.5 yards per carry.  Like the Huskers, the Illinois offense will be fine, but their defense concerns me.  The Illini are giving up 40.3 points per game on average this season, and more than five yards per carry on the ground.  This will be a big test for the Illini come Saturday, whether or not their defensive front can contain this Nebraska ground attack.

In the last nine road games for Illinois, the Fighting Illini are just 2-7 against the spread, and just 1-8 overall.  Illinois is also just 4-12 against the spread in their last 16 games against Big Ten foes.  The Huskers are just in the black at home, where Nebraska is going 9-8 against the spread the past three seasons. 

I’m going to have to take Illinois here.  I love what Scheelhaase is doing this season, not just on the field in his play, but how the team is rallying around him.  The Huskers are a good team, and their offense can be incredibly explosive, which makes them hard to bet against because you are always concerned about a backdoor cover.  

I don’t know if the Illini have enough to get the outright win, but if the price is right come Saturday, I won’t only take the points, but I’ll also put a little something on the money line as well.  

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Illinois -10.5

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