Pick – Analysis
Both of these teams have been very impressive in the early going. Washington destroyed a ranked Boise State squad in their first Game, while Illinois has looked like a new team from a season ago, dismantling Cincinnati last weekend as 7.5-point underdogs. The Huskies were a solid team at home last year, but struggled on the road, losing to teams like Washington State and having trouble against California. Bookmakers don’t think those road woes will continue as the Huskies are listed as -10 point road favorites at 5 Dimes Sportsbook. To note, this Game is labeled at a neutral site, but it’ll basically be a home Game for Illinois at Soldier Field.
Note that this Game opened at -7 and is as high as -10 in spots. That combined with the betting trends at 5dimes.com, which show us that 83% of the bets taken so far have been on the Huskies, indicates that the betting public doesn’t buy the Illinois turn around.
Even though the Fighting Illini finished with only two wins last season, they picked up a new offensive coordinator in the offseason and look like a completely new team with the same players. Their opening win over Southern Illinois wasn’t all that great, but their upset of Cincy last weekend was impressive, putting 45 points on the Bearcats. Led by Nathan SCheelhaase once again at quarterback, it’s been a complete revival. After Four TDs and eight INTs a year ago with 246 pass attempts, SCheelhaase already has six TDs, one INT and 728 yards through two Games and 73 pass attempts. Now in his senior season, SCheelhaase is finally putting the pieces together, for now at least. Still, their running Game hasn’t been the greatest with Josh Ferguson and Donovonn Young sharing duties.
The Huskies are travelling from the west coast, but they also didn’t play last weekend. They shut down Boise State in their first Game, holding the MWC favorites to six points. Sure, the Broncos had trouble scoring last year as it is, but to not allow a touchdown is a pretty good feat.
The Illinois defense may be what this Game comes down to. They gave up 27 second-half points to the Salukis in the first Game and let them make a Game of it. However, the Fighting Illini were rather impressive against Cincy holding the Bearcats to 17 points — of course, an injury to its starting QB helped in the process.
Washington has an all-around attack, which can be a problem for any opposing defense. They scored 38 points on a legitimate Boise State defense if that says anything. Quarterback Keith Price is a third-year starting senior and he could really make a name for himself in the Pac-12. Price went 23-for-31 for 324 yards and two TDs against the Broncos. Combine that with one of the best running backs in the Conference in Bishop Sankey, who continues to gash defenses. Sankey went for 161 yards and two TDs in the first Game after totaling 1,439 yards and 16 touchdowns a season ago.
It comes down to the Huskies bringing their style of football on the road to Soldier Field, and Illinois being able keep their offense rolling.
The Huskies went 2-4 ATS last season on the road, but currently have a 6-1 ATS mark in their last seven Games overall. The Fighting Illini struggled all last season and are 2-9 ATS in their last 11 Games overall.
Like the betting public, not sure we buy into Illinois at this point either. After all, they got past Southern Illinois by just 8, though Cincinnati wasn’t supposed to be a slouch. Tough to lay a big number on the road but that’s the way we’re leaning right now. Just a lean though. Washington -9.5