The Illinois Fighting Illini have high hopes of a turnaround as they prepare to host the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Big Ten opener on Saturday. The college football season was supposed to kick off in Dublin, Ireland, but Illinois fans will get to see the debut of Bret Bielema as coach. The former Wisconsin and Arkansas coach took over after Lovie Smith was fired following a 2-6 season. One of those wins was a 41-23 victory against the Huskers in Lincoln last season.The Huskers went 3-5 in 2020, and coach Scott Frost is taking a lot of heat, especially with an NCAA investigation now looming.
Kickoff from Champaign’s Memorial Stadium is set for 1 p.m. ET. Caesars Sportsbook lists the Cornhuskers as seven-point favorites in its latest Nebraska vs. Illinois odds, while the over-under for total points scored is 54.5. Before making any Illinois vs. Nebraska picks, check out the college football predictions from the SportsLine Projection Model.
The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every FBS college football game 10,000 times. Over the past five years, the proprietary computer model has generated a stunning profit of over $3,500 for $100 players on its top-rated college football picks against the spread. For the 2020 season, it went 56-37 on all top-rated picks and returned over $1,200 on its top-rated spread and over-under picks. Anyone who has followed it has seen huge returns.
Now, the model has set its sights on Nebraska vs. Illinois. You can visit SportsLine now to see the picks. Here are the college football odds and trends for Illinois vs. Nebraska:
Nebraska vs. Illinois: Cornhuskers -7Nebraska vs. Illinois over-under: 54.5 pointsNebraska vs. Illinois money line: Cornhuskers -270, Fighting Illini +220NEB: The Huskers are 14-0 all-time in August games.ILL: The Illini have won 22 consecutive home openers.
Featured Game | Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Why Nebraska can cover
The Cornhuskers want to come out strong with Frost taking a lot of heat, and they are 6-2 against Illinois since joining the Big Ten. They are 8-7 against the spread on the road under Frost and face an Illini team that had the second-worst record in Big Ten games (10-34) in the five seasons with Smith as coach. The Huskers will lean heavily on a defense that has 10 starters returning, and though it allowed 29 points per game a season ago, the Illini scored just 20. Nebraska allowed 386 yards per game (50th in FBS), while Illinois gave up 467 (114th).
Nebraska will count heavily on veteran quarterback Adrian Martinez to exploit that defense, and he will have to limit turnovers. The Illini had a 490-392 advantage in yards in 2020, but the Huskers gave them the ball five times. Luke McCaffrey threw three interceptions, and Martinez will have the reins this year. In the 2018 and 2019 meetings, the junior threw for a combined 618 yards and six TDs, with one interception, while rushing for 173 yards and a TD. Illinois allowed 230 yards per game on the ground last season (116th), while the Huskers rushed for 201 (28th).
Why Illinois can coverBielema’s arrival and the drubbing it handed the Huskers will give Illinois plenty of confidence, and most of last year’s team is back. That includes both running backs who topped 100 yards as the Illini piled up 285 on the ground against Nebraska. Mike Epstein went for 113 on just 13 carries and Chase Brown rushed for 110, while quarterback Brandon Peters had 36 to go with his 205 passing yards. The offensive line also returns almost intact, so a Huskers defense that allowed 169 rushing yards per game last season (69th) could be in for another long day.
Bielema is 11-1 in openers as an FBS head coach, and the Illini are 9-1 in their last 10 to kick off the season. The Illini defense forced five turnovers in last year’s matchup, and Martinez has a history of mistakes, throwing 20 interceptions and fumbling 32 times in his three seasons. Illinois is 4-2 against the spread over the past two years as a home underdog, while the Cornhuskers are 5-11 ATS as favorites under Frost (since 2018). Peters provides the offense with stability after injuries and COVID issues forced the Illini to use four different quarterbacks last season.
How to make Illinois vs. Nebraska picksSportsLine’s model is leaning under on the total, projecting the teams to combine for 52 points. The model also says one side of the spread hits in almost 60 percent of simulations. You can only get the pick at SportsLine.
So who wins Nebraska vs. Illinois? And which side of the spread hits in almost 60 percent of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to find out which side of the spread you need to jump on Saturday, all from the model that has crushed its college football picks, and find out.