There remains a question of where this Game will be played after Hurricane Irma swept through, but it appears it will be played, no matter the location. Illinois offered to host the Game, although before that was decided, USF was still a hefty -17 point favorite on Monday as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
After getting a week off, South Florida hopes to improve in its third Game of the year. The Bulls failed to surpass expectations even after getting wins in their first two. They simply scraped by against some poor opponents and failed to cover in each of them. Illinois isn’t a powerhouse by any means, but the Illini come in undefeated and may be the toughest test that USF has faced yet.
Illinois has won its first two Games, although the winning could stop with this Game and the Big Ten Schedule ahead. Either way, it’s a better start to the season and the first time Lovie Smith has had a winning record with the team. Their first two wins have been highlighted by solid defensive play and the ability to move the ball just enough on the offensive end.
The good news is that USF hasn’t played all that well on either side of the ball in its two wins. That should allow for a decent offensive performance from quarterback Chayce Crouch, although his upside is limited. The Illini will run the ball as much as possible behind Mike Epstein (165 yards), while Mike Dudek sees most of the work in the passing Game. To help cover this Game, Illinois should once again be around the 20-point mark or more after USF allowed 22 points to SJSU and 17 to Stony Brook in its first two Games. If the Illini can find room to run, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if they pulled an upset given how USF has looked under Charlie Strong.
Of course, Quinton Flowers is still on the other side of the field. While his passing (54.5% completion) remains an issue, he’s still one of the more electric players around and the Bulls will lean on him as well as Darius Tice and D’Ernest Johnson in the running Game. Bettors are still confident that USF will be able to run away with this Game despite how the team has looked early on. To go with Flowers’s ineffectiveness passing the ball, the Bulls have run for just 3.8 yards per carry against poor defenses.
Illinois is coming off a Game in which it held a normally high-flying Western Kentucky offense to just seven points. Sure, the Hilltoppers have a new coach, but holding Mike White to zero touchdowns and the running Game to six yards is impressive. At the least, the Illinois defense is halfway decent and that could cause some issues for what has been an inconsistent USF offense.
The location of this Game needs to be set before putting money down, but USF as a 17-point favorite seems a little too big given how the team has looked early on. Expect the Illini to fight the entire way with the only way USF can cover is if it defense can finally stop a bad offense.
Our Pick – Nothing to get too excited about here. Coming into this season, South Florida looked to be in better shape than Illinois in terms of returning talent, but both squads off to winning starts, which has us taking the generous spot here in hopes that the Illini make a Game of it. Illinois +17