Ball State Cardinals (0-0) at Illinois Fighting Illini (0-0)
College Football: Saturday, September 2, 2017 at 12:00 pm (Memorial Stadium-Champaign)
The Line: Illinois Fighting Illini -7.5 -- Over/Under: 58 Click to Get Latest Betting Odds
The Ball State Cardinals and Illinois Fighting Illini meet Saturday in college football action at Memorial Stadium.
The Ball State Cardinals look for a statement victory to set the tone after winning a combined 12 games the last three seasons. The Cardinals will role with experienced quarterback Jack Milas, who has 314 career pass attempts, but the bulk of those reps came during the 2014 season. While experienced, it’s going to be interesting to see long it takes Milas to get in the swing of things. The Cards will be wise to lean on running back James Gilbert, who had 1,300 yards last season and 12 touchdowns. Ball State’s receiving core took a major hit, but Jordan Hogue and Devin Reece have shown flashes of being reliable targets. Defensively, Marc Walton returns to Ball State after producing 63 tackles, Anthony Winbush had 8.5 sacks and David Moore had 10 pass deflections. Ball State was 78th in the country last year, allowing 30.1 points per game. The Ball State Cardinals have lost eight of their last 11 road games.
The Illinois Fighting Illini hope Lovie Smith can produce better results than the 3-9 record he had last season. Chayce Crouch will get his shot at quarterback after 66 pass attempts the last two years, and he brings dual-threat ability to the offense as well, averaging five yards per carry in a limited role. Kendrick Foster returns at running back after topping 700 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, while playmaking wide receiver Malik Turner and Sam Mays can spread the field and make life easier on its new starting QB. Illinois was held to 10 or less points four times last year, so improvement is the only option with this group. Defensively, Tré Watson returns after finishing with 102 tackles last year, Tito Odenigbo had one sack and Jaylen Dunlap had 11 pass deflections. Illinois was 94th in the country last year, allowing 31.9 points per game. The Illinois Fighting Illini have lost five of their last six home games.
The Cardinals are 52-22 ATS in their last 74 road games, 4-0 ATS in their last 4 non-conference games and 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games in September. The Fighting Illini are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 home games, 3-8 ATS in their last 11 vs. MAC and 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games overall. The over is 4-1 in Fighting Illini last 5 games overall and the under is 6-2 in Cardinals last 8 games overall.
This line opened up with Illinois being an 11-point favorite, so we're getting some value with a line that dropped quite a bit. The Fighting Illini are a better team than what they showed a year ago and with another season under Lovie, they should be able to show that. Crouch and his dual-threat style will help Illinois' offense big time. I'm concerned about Ball State and just how long it's going to take Milas to get in the swing of things. Starting things on the road only makes it that much tougher. I'm going to side with Illinois by double digits here, as it starts the season off with a nice victory.