Nebraska Huskers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini – College Football (August 28, 2021)

By Dan Vasta in College Football
| August 27, 2021 12:31 pm PDT

The first official game of the 2021 college football season involving a pair of FBS teams is from the Big Ten. What a season this should be in 2021. Both of these programs will look for August momentum to carry them.

Nebraska’s Scott Frost enters the season on the hot seat among the top five coaches under the most pressure to win this season.

Illinois begins a new era of football under former Wisconsin and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema. It is time to see Bielema do big things in Champaign, which would include getting to a bowl game. Winning a Big Ten game this season would be a goal, and winning the opener would please the fanbase.

Let’s take a look at the latest odds for Nebraska vs. Illinois and get to my prediction and top betting pick.

Nebraska vs. Illinois Odds

Nebraska -7-113
Illinois +7-107
Nebraska To Win-265
Illinois To Win+225
Over 54.5-110
Under 54.5-110

Both of these teams have been accustomed to losing in the Big Ten and are looking to end droughts. The last winning season was 2016 for Nebraska, back when Mike Riley was the coach. The latest winning year for Illinois was when Ron Zook was their coach in 2011.

The Huskers were only 4-4 against the spread last season and were a dismal 3-9 the year prior. Illinois was 3-5 last season against the spread.

Nebraska opens as a touchdown favorite at the top college football betting sites, but are they the team you want to side with on Saturday?

It is time to take a closer look at this matchup by breaking it all down.

Why Illinois Wins

The Fighting Illini can win this game in the trenches. They bring back solid linemen on both sides of the ball, but they must dominate the line of scrimmage.

Running backs Chase Brown, Chase Hayden, and freshman Reggie Love will look to find success on early downs to allow the offense to be in their comfort zone. Love is a young freshman that will have an opportunity to thrive running behind an experienced offensive line that features four seniors.

Illinois can’t be forced into many obvious passing downs early in the game, or else it could spell doom for the offense. Quarterback Brandon Peters is a capable athlete, but the passing game was abysmal last season.

The team ranked No. 114 in the FBS, averaging 152.9 yards per game. That was the second-lowest total among all Power Five schools.

Defensively, they could control the line of scrimmage and force the Huskers into a passing team.

If they can be opportunistic and win the turnover battle on top of controlling the line of scrimmage, the Illini should win the game.

Why Nebraska Wins

This opener for Scott Frost and Nebraska is vital. The Huskers top the list of college football premier programs from a historical perspective that needs to wake up. The sport isn’t at its best if Michigan, Tennessee, Florida State, and Nebraska are all struggling.

Frost has Adrian Martinez, his experienced starter under center. Martinez was the leading rusher last season as he eclipsed 500 yards. That must change if the Huskers expect to be bowl-bound this year.

The quarterback reached paydirt seven times, but USC transfer Markese Stepp is a bulldozing back that should keep them balanced enough. If the Huskers can move the chains, this offense should be challenging for Illinois to limit.

The other main option is tight-end Austin Allen. Allen is 6’8, and he will be a matchup nightmare for Illinois. When in doubt, throw the pigskin up to big No. 11.

Nebraska is the more talented team on the perimeter on both sides of the ball, and they have an advantage with the better passing quarterback.

If Martinez plays well, the Huskers should win this one going away.

Nebraska vs. Illinois Prediction

Nebraska needs this badly, or else the fanbase will want to hit the reset button on the hiring of Frost.

The program has been waiting all summer for this moment. They aren’t going to drop the ball in a crucial spot. There are some in Lincoln that feel they will finish in the Top 25 or even better.

It has been far too long since the Huskers have done much of anything.

  • Last Bowl Game: 2016
  • Previous AP Top 10 Finish: 2001
  • Previous AP Top 25 Finish: 2012

Despite the active droughts they are in, there is too much overall talent and experience.

Linebackers has been a staple for the Blackshirts defense under Tom Osborne, and they should be able to lean on Luke Reimer and Jojo Domann in this one.

The Huskers should start 3-0 before a trip to Norman. A loss here could put them in jeopardy of missing a bowl for a fifth straight season.

1961 was the last time the Huskers missed five or more bowls in a row, and that was when there were only a dozen bowls in the sport. Nebraska won’t sweat too much here. Nebraska wins this entertaining matchup by two scores.

  • Nebraska 31, Illinois 20

Nebraska vs. Illinois Pick

The pick in this matchup is about the value associated with Nebraska. The money line is an easy play at -265.

The Huskers are a lock to win this game if they can avoid getting run over at the line of scrimmage.

Plus, they would have to cough the ball up a few times to keep Illinois in this one.

Playing on the road could be a challenge at first, but the Huskers are the better team. They should win six to seven games this year. The Illini may go winless in the Big Ten, and this should be the start of a challenging year ahead for Bielema and crew. Take Nebraska’s money line with confidence, and feel free to lay the seven points as well.

Pick
  • Nebraska to Win
    -265

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