Illini Football vs Nebraska Cornhuskers: Game Preview, Prediction



The last time these two teams met in Champaign, it was one of the oddest Illini football games in recent memory. Illinois emerged victorious that mid-October evening in 2015, but only after a series of extremely bizarre and unexplained phenomena:

The spread shifted several points on the morning of game day, the reliable and seasoned veteran QB Tommy Armstrong didn’t kill the clock when he had obvious, ample opportunities to do so, Illinois ran the same exact passing play to the same corner of the end zone, throwing it to the same guy over and over again on the final series, Nebraska kept bailing them out with pass interference penalties.


That win moved Illinois to 4-1 on the season, but they tanked badly down the stretch and finished 5-7. NU finished with the same exact record. You can expect a similar game this time as both teams head into this one looking “mediocre at best,” and that’s being generous.

Right now, Cornhuskers versus Illini football looks like a battle of teams destined to finish 4-8.

TV PREVIEW: I discussed Lovie Smith and the Illini football program during my segment this week on WGN CLTV Sports Feed with Jarrett Payton, have a watch below:

KICKOFF:  7 pm Friday

SPREAD: Illini football +6 1/2


From Tuesday on KOZN 1620 The Zone Omaha, Sharp and Benning in the Morning:

Nebraska Football Preview:

What’s happening in Lincoln is a classic example of failures at each level in the chain of command. Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst was ousted last week because the program severely declined on his watch. The decline is largely due to Eichorst wagering his gig on the hire of Mike Riley, and then giving him a long expensive, undeserved extension.

Riley went all in with Tanner Lee as the quarterback and leader of his football team. Ineffectiveness and failure at each rung in the organizational ladder here, and now Nebraska football is in a very vulnerable place. Obviously, the clock is ticking on the future of Riley.

NU beat Rutgers last week, but it was extremely unimpressive. Given what Rutgers is and more importantly what they are not, you can’t struggle with the faux-B1G team like that.

Lee has talent, but obviously still makes very poor decisions. His tendency to be careless with the ball, and sometimes throw pick-sixes, coupled with an Illini football team that prioritizes forcing turnovers (see the +3 t-shirts), and this could be a really bad match-up for the Huskers.

RB1 Tre Bryant will almost certainly not play in this one, meaning Mikale Wilbon will get the start again.


Illini Football Preview:

Lovie Smith made it clear yesterday that Chayce Crouch remains QB1 and Jeff George Jr. is the back-up. Smith used the phrase “relief hitter” at least three times to describe JGJ and his role with the team. Yes, you are correct “relief hitter” is not actually a term or a thing, but hey that’s the term he chose to use.

The Illini also welcomed an immediately eligible transfer, Pete DiNovo from Central Florida. He inherited the starting gig from Blake Bortles at UCF, but didn’t last long and converted to wide receiver. At some point you could see (cue your Noel Gallagher from Oasis voice) “a Champaign Pete DiNovo, a Champaign Pete DiNovo in the sky” playing quarterback for the Illini this season, but you almost certainly won’t see it this game.

chayce crouch

In synopsis, you don’t have any answers at quarterback anywhere on the current roster. You know what Chayce Crouch is, and unfortunately that’s…it’s….let’s just look ahead because all the QBs coming in next year all have a chance to be the guy, and realistically, any of them could be better than the current, very undesirable options.

For that we now turn it over to Ian Gold of The Champaign Room, SB Nation’s Illini website and online community.

Lovie Smith is as concerned with his stable of quarterbacks as your average fan, evidenced by the fact that they’ve accepted three commitments for the class of 2018. These three guys are similar but different, both in skills and readiness to make an early impact in Champaign.

Because this column is mostly about hoping and dreaming for a better future, let’s take a deeper dive into what Illinois could be getting with the next batch of signal callers.


Ian Gold did an elite job informing us of who the three Illini football QB commits, Coran Taylor, Cordel LittleJohn and MJ Rivers are.

As I’ve written numerous times over the years, recruiting is just not my cup of tea, but I recognize game in those who do cover it.  While the QB situation is bleak, there are feel good stories on this Illini team though.

Start with tailback Mike Epstein, who could be the next big thing. Go here to bone up on your Epstein knowledge. Mike Dudek is back, go here to get familiar again with his story.

Also, you have 1990s pop culture references in the official Illini football game notes now.

Side bar- Lovie Smith was very critical of President Donald Trump’s NFL trolling over the weekend. Smith spent a decent amount of time criticizing Trump’s behavior.

Prediction for novelty purposes only: Illini football 21, Nebraska Cornhuskers 19

Expect a wild one with a substantial amount of scoring to come on defense and special teams. There will be very bad quarterbacking on both sides and an Illini football upset.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now and Minute Media. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC and Chicago, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

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