Yesterday I previewed the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Illinois is sitting at 2-2, but they totally had the chance of being 4-0. But Illinois did Illinois things and allowed 70 unanswered points late in the games against USF and Penn State and lost both games. If anything, Illinois needs to play a tight defense and keep Rutgers at bay.
Illinois’ offensive line is good this year. If you recall my season preview, the young line needed to do work. Behind the line Illinois has a Top 20 rushing attack thanks to Reggie Corbin and Mike Epstein. Illinois has close to 1000 yards in just 4 games, last year, in 12 games, the Illini had 1267. Illinois has more than doubled it out put and a lot of that has to do with a more mature line and Rod Smith. A.J. Bush should be back for this game and should provide a third rushing attack. I could also see Illinois going with a 2 quarterback approach with M.J. Rivers providing air support if needed. But majority of the game will be running the ball against Rutgers suspect rushing defense.
Illinois has no ability to stop a good QB. Even against lower teams like Kent State and Western Illinois, the Illini had a tough time containing the QB. Luckily, Illinois would have to do little to keep Art Sitowski from breaking away. However, Illinois does need to watch out for Raheem Blackshear, who is averaging 5 yards a carry and 2 TD’s on the season. Illinois is actually worse than Rutgers against the run, but they rank top 10 in the turnover margin with 2 fumbles recovered and 7 interceptions on the season. Illinois needs to get after the turnover prone young quarterback and this should be a winnable game.
Illinois is a much better team than last year, but this game isn’t a forsure win, even if Rutgers is a terrible team. Illinois needs to play defense and play for 4 quarters. Illinois has the offense. The only worry is will the defense show up.