Illinois Week 5 Preview: Nebraska Cornhuskers

Illinois opens Big 10 play in a matchup on national TV against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

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Location: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL

Time: 7 PM CT

TV: FS1, Fox Sports Now App

Illinois (2-1) gets a visit from the Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-2) on Friday night. This is a huge game for both programs. Illinois is coming off a bye week and looking to regain its confidence at home. Nebraska is coming off a rough patch of games, losing to Oregon and NIU and surviving a scare from Rutgers. Husker coach, Mike Riley, will be coaching for his job once again.

Key Matchups:

Tanner Lee vs. Illinois Defense

If you have watched Nebraska play this year, Tanner Lee is horrible under pressure. Lee has thrown for 7 TD’s but 9 interceptions. Under pressure, Lee has been known to throw into coverage and make ill advised passes. But this Illinois defense is streaky. Against Western Kentucky, Illinois was able to hold its ground and keep the passing game in check. But all the improvements in Week 2 were completely demolished by USF QB Quinten Flowers who had 386 All purpose yards and was responsible for 5 TDs. Luckily, Tanner Lee is not a dual threat QB, but will pose a challenge to Illinois’ young secondary.

Illinois Offense vs. Itself

The Cornhuskers may not need to play on defense if Illinois keeps doing what it is doing. Chayse Crouch will have another go, but he hasn’t been very productive in his first 3 starts. In 10 quarters of action, Crouch has managed only 328 passing yards and 1 TD. Jeff George Jr. has only been slightly better, throwing for 211 yards and 1 TD in 2 quarters of garbage time against USF. Combined the quarterbacks have 5 interceptions. Even with deep threats like Mikey Dudek and Malik Turner on the field, Illinois has yet to utilize the option. The problems arises from the young O-line which has allowed 19 tackles for loss and 7 sacks. The lone highlight had been Mike Epstein who has 221 yards rushing, 59 yards receiving and 4 TDs. As always, if Epstein has a solid performance, it should open it up for the receivers. Illinois had had 2 weeks to prepare, hopefully they can finally get the offense rolling at home.

Prediction

This is a tough one. This is a prime time matchup in Champaign. A huge one for the Illini to impress fans at home and the nation watching on national TV. Nebraska hasn’t impressed since Week 2 in a close loss to Oregon. As always, Husker fans travel very well and it cold quickly turn into a home game for the Blackshirts. The line opened at 6.5 and has fallen to 6 with Illinois as the home underdogs. If Illinois can control the tempo, this game has a chance to be favorable for the Illini.

 

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