Illinois vs. Baylor
Betting Line: Baylor -1 o/u 63
Illinois nor Baylor were supposed to make a bowl Game this year, yet both of them did. These two schools have mired in mediocrity. Baylor is playing in a bowl Game for the first time since 1994 and the Illini are back for the first time since getting crushed by USC in the Rose Bowl. They have 8 losing seasons and 2 bowl losses since their last bowl win all the way back in 1999. Playing in the Texas Bowl is a very, very big deal for these programs. Both boast high powered offense and minimal defense. This will be a very fun Game to watch as a result.
The Illini enter this Game on a bit of a shaky stretch. They ended the year with 3 of their last 4 Games on the road. Consequently, they lost 3 of their last 4 Games. This was due in large part to a lack of offensive power. That is strange considering they were a high octane buNCh in every Game before the last 4 of the year.
QB Nathan SCheelhaase is a freshman, but is already doing big things. The dual pass/run threat passed for 211 yards, 3 TDs and rushed for 101 more yards and a TD against Michigan. He may be young, but the Kansas City, MO native can find the end zone. Junior RB Mike LeshOure is also a force for this offense. He owns 1,513 rushing yards and 14 TDs this year. His best Game of the year came when he carried the ball 33 times for 333 yards and 2 TDs against Northwestern. If he does anything close to that against Baylor this Game is already over.
Just as Illinois has floundered toward the end of the year, so has Baylor. They are losers of 3 straight, but given the competition it is understandable. Those losses did come to Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma after all! The offense will have no problem getting back on its feet against the soft Illini defense.
QB Robert Griffin III is much like SCheelhause, but a year older. He passed for 4 TDs against Kansas State. He passed for 2 and ran for 2 against Texas Tech. Griffin is a very dynamic player which is proved by the fact that he has 29 total TDs this year. Senior Jay Finley is the feature RB in the Baylor offense. The 5-11 205 lbs Corsicana, TX native has rushed for 1,155 yards and 11 TDs this year. His best Game of the year came when he rushed for 250 yards and 2 TDs against Kansas State. Baylor narrowly won that Game by a score of 47-42.
The Baylor defense is downright awful. They GAve up 724 total yards against Oklahoma State. They failed to register a sack in their last 2 Games and have only 2 in their last 4 Games. They are especially vulnerable in the secondary as they allowed 400+ passing yards twice this season. We can expect them to key off SCheelhause. Creating problems for the youngster is important if they want to win. However, like most things in life, it is easier said than done.
Yards per point numbers defensively are dead even here. Both have a mediocre number of 14. Offensively, Illinois gets the slight nod by 2 points. Our Score prediction model favors Illinois by a score of 35-31. All the numbers points towards a narrow Illinois win.
We’ll go ahead and take Illinois +1 here as a strong opinion.