Time: Saturday, September 9th 7:00 PM CT
Location: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL
TV: BTN, Fox Sports App
Setting the Stage
Coming into the game, both the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers won their first game. Illinois won it in a rather unimpressive fashion, blocking a field goal against Ball State in the 4th. The Tops, won is outstanding fashion over Eastern Kentucky, but gave up more than 300 yards through the air, something the Illini can exploit. The line for this game is set at 8 points.
What Illinois needs to do to win
Illinois needs to come out strong. The freshman should be more focused now that the first game is out of the way, especially on defense. As I wrote earlier, Western Kentucky loves to score. Last year their QB ranked among the top 10 in D1 and threw for over 3000 yards and 30 TDs. This will put a lot of pressure on Illinois’ young defense. If the Illinois wants to prove anything this Saturday in front of a night crowd in Champaign this Saturday, they HAVE to stop the WKU air attack.
On the other side of the ball, WKU gave up only 25 rushing yards last week, so Chayce Crouch has to be brilliant and have his own air attack. We have Michael Turner and Mikey Dudek that are great creating opening for themselves, but they were held to 2 longs plays. Chayce Crouch wasn’t leading his receivers and taking care of the football. It didn’t help that the O-line didn’t do much to protect him.
Key match-up for the game: Illinois O-line vs. WKU Rush
A lot has to go right for the Illini to win on Saturday and it comes down to the O-line recognizing and defending the blitz. If the O-line can protect Crouch, he should be able to go through his reads and get the ball to the right man. The O-line also needs to open up lanes for Mike Epstein and Kendrick Foster so the ground game can be established. All this will open up deep plays for Dudek and Turner and points.
This is a growing year for the Illinois. If we play a perfect game, we should be able to win the game. But that is a lot to ask from our young team. As I said in my weekly bets post, I want Illinois to win and I really hope they do. But it will be a disappointing loss under the lights. The Illini will beat the spread (-8) but lose 28-24.