Illinois keys to victory and HOL score predictions

Sean Callahan, Publisher
Husker Online

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Ready or not, Friday night Big Ten football is here. When former Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst agreed to put NU in this Friday night spot at Illinois, I don't think anyone could've predicted we'd see this much blow back around the state.

None the less, game day is here and the Huskers (2-2, 1-0) have a real opportunity start out conference play 2-0. The one major advantage Illinois (2-1, 0-0) will have going into today's game is they are coming off their bye week, while NU must travel to Champaign on short rest.

Here today's keys to a Husker victory over Illinois, and the HOL expert score predictions for Friday. NU enters today's game as a 6.5 point favorite over the Illini.

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USA Today

KEYS TO VICTORY: Nebraska at Illinois 

KEY 1: Ground and pound

I think last week we saw the winning formula for Nebraska was pretty simple. Pound the ball on the ground with their running backs and take the pressure off quarterback Tanner Lee. This will open everything else up in the offense if the Huskers can run for around 200 yards on the ground.

KEY 2: Make Illinois's offense uncomfortable

The Illini come into today's game with arguably the worst offense's in the Big Ten. The Blackshirts have feasted on two bad offenses the last two weeks, only allowing 17 points over their last 10 quarters. That needs to carry over again to today.

KEY 3: Tanner Lee's confidence

This is one of the hardest things to read right now? Where is the confidence level of quarterback Tanner Lee after last week's moment where he was booed following his third pick six interception over the last two games. NU needs to find ways to take the pressure off of Lee early.

KEY 4: Getting off to a better start

The Huskers have been a historically slow starting team under Mike Riley. They need to figure out a way to come out of the gates stronger for today's game at Illinois. It could be as simple as just being more aggressive with some of their early calls.

KEY 5: On the fly adjustments

The thing that probably worries me the most about this game is the fact Illinois has had 14 days to get ready for this game, while the Huskers have had just six, and one of those days is a travel day. You have to expect Lovie Smith to have his team well prepared for tonight's game, and they are going to throw some new wrinkles at the Huskers.

EXPERT TAKE: Nebraska at Illinois 

Sean Callahan - HuskerOnline Publisher

This is a great match-up for Nebraska in a lot of ways. Illinois has a young, struggling defensive front that has trouble stopping the run. They have arguably the worst offense in the Big Ten. This is a game the Huskers should win and will win handily on the road.

Nebraska 27 Illinois 13

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Robin Washut - HuskerOnline Senior Writer

Illinois has given Nebraska problems the past two years, but even as much as the Huskers have struggled this season, I just see no way they lose today. The Illini are the worst team in the Big Ten by a long shot, and pair that with NU finally finding some offensive identity last week and a steadily improving defense, this should be another needed conference victory.

Nebraska 28, Illinois 17

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Nate Clouse - HuskerOnline Lead Recruiting Analyst

The Huskers stick with what worked last week and give Illinois a heavy dose of the ground game. I see both Mikale Wilbon and Devine Ozigbo having big days carrying the ball for the Big Red. The defense continues to look more and more confident and shut down a poor Illini offense. Overall, NU gets in and out of Champaign with a convincing win.

Nebraska 31, Illinois 14

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Mike'l Severe - Omaha World Herald Bottom Line

I think Northern Illinois and Rutgers are better teams than Illinois. But the Illini are coming off a bye, at home on a Friday night I expect some wacky things to happen. If it is Chayce Crouch at QB and he can find his talented pass catchers, Illinois has a very good chance to win this game. NU's offense needs Tre Bryant and Stanley Morgan to be healthy to be efficient this season.

Nebraska 20, Illinois 17

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Andy Kendeigh - KETV Channel 7 Sports Director

A short week, a banged up team and plenty of distractions off the field. Not a great recipe for success for Nebraska. Fortunately, their opponent is one of the youngest teams in America and mistake-prone, even if they are coming off a bye week. Tanner Lee takes a step forward and quiets the boo-birds while Devine Ozigbo gives Husker nation another reason to love him.

Nebraska 27, Illinois 17


HuskerOnline Week 5 Expert Score Predictions

Week 5

Sean Callahan

Robin Washut

Nate Clouse

Mike'l Severe

Andy Kendeigh

Nebraska at Illinois

27-13 Nebraska

28-17 Nebraska

31-14 Nebraska

20-17 Nebraska

27-17 Nebraska

Iowa at MSU

23-20

Iowa

27-7

Iowa

24-17

Iowa

23-20

Iowa

20-17

Iowa

NW at Wisconsin

27-23

Wisconsin

35-20 Wisconsin

38-20 Wisconsin

30-20 Wisconsin

28-14 Wisconsin

USC at Wash State

41-34

USC

49-42

USC

38-33

USC

48-41

USC

41-38

USC

Texas at Iowa State

27-24

Iowa State

17-14

Iowa State

34-27 Texas

37-35

Iowa State

31-27

Texas

Miami at Duke

37-30

Miami

28-24 Miami

35-31 Miami

27-23 Miami

27-24

Duke

HuskerOnline Score Prediction Standings

Expert Picker

Straight Up

vs. the Spread

Cumulative Total

Mike'l Severe

OWH Bottom Line

19-5

16-8

35

Nate Clouse

HuskerOnline

18-6

13-11

31

Robin Washut

HuskerOnline

18-6

13-11

31

Sean Callahan

HuskerOnline

16-8

10-14

26

Andy Kendeigh

KETV ABC-Omaha

12-12

13-11

25


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