Another week, another pick I messed up. I wasn’t convinced Middle Tennessee State could overcome their turnover issue last week, and I was wrong. They took down Florida International by a score of 37-17, not turning the ball over once. Let’s try this again.
Our Best Worst Game Of The Week this week is a Big 10 Conference matchup – we’re looking at #118 Rutgers (1-4) on the road at #91 Illinois (2-3).
The Scarlet Knights, led by senior quarterback Kyle Bolin, score just short of 22 points per game. Bolin, a transfer, doesn’t seem to have the greatest grasp on the offense, as he has only completed 55% of his passes with 6 picks on the year. They only average about 300 yards per game, which matches up with Illinois’ less-than-formidable offense almost to a T. As bad as their passing game is, their running game might just be worse; their leading rusher, Gus Edwards, only has about 300 yards over 5 games.
Save a blowout loss to Ohio State, this defense hasn’t been as awful as you might typically expect it to be. They’re able to hold opponents to about 365 yards per game. The biggest storyline that the Rutgers D has is that they’ve moved last year’s leading wideout Juwuan Harris (above) to safety, in an effort to boost depth and put his talent to use – he hasn’t been a factor offensively due to injuries early in the year.
If there’s one thing the Scarlet Knights have ‘going for them’, two of their four losses have come against some pretty formidable, playoff-caliber teams in Ohio State and Washington. They’ve played much better opponents than Illinois and have played in much more difficult road environments.
The Fighting Illini have split between two quarterbacks this season – Jeff George Jr. and Chayce Crouch. Between the pair, the aerial attack has 2 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Mike Epstein hasn’t been terrible out of the backfield, but it’s tough when the entire offense falls on his shoulders, and the leading wideout on his team has 19 catches.
Their defense is simply terrible. They give up over 430 yards to opposing offenses, and they let up close to 30 points per game. More specifically, they have been terrible in Big 10 play. Against conference opponents, they’re 0-2, and they gave up 28 points to a hopeless Nebraska team and 45 points to a defensive-oriented Iowa team. This isn’t even considering the 47 points they gave up in a matchup against USF. Despite all of this, Illinois is still favored, albeit by 2.5 points.
I’m not sold on Bolin’s grasp of the offense, but I’m less sold on Illinois’ ability to go a game without throwing two interceptions. For that reason, I’m picking Rutgers by 10.
This game is at high noon on Saturday. You can watch it on the Big Ten Network if you’re feeling up to it. Tickets to this matchup start at a whopping $3, which if I’m not mistaken, is the lowest in the BWGOTW series this year.
Cover photo from The Champaign Room.
Other photo from 247Sports,