Posts Tagged ‘Illinois Fighting Illini’

Texas Bowl Picks: Illinois vs. Baylor Analysis

December 29th, 2010 by Adam Markowitz (Bankroll Sports Columnist) | Posted in College Football   Comments Off on Texas Bowl Picks: Illinois vs. Baylor Analysis

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Two of the more likable bowl teams this season are going to meet up at Reliant Stadium on Wednesday night, as the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Baylor Bears square off in the annual Texas Bowl. Parsing through these two teams could be tough, as they both have their strengths and weaknesses, and both looked very shoddy in their final performances of the season. However, one team has to claim victory, and here at Bankroll Sports, we’ve got the keys to the game that you need to watch out for before you make your Texas Bowl picks.

Key #1: Someone has to figure out how to stop Mikel LeShoure
Easier said than done. LeShoure absolutely ran wild at the end of this season, accounting for four straight games with at least 120 yards after going five straight games without hitting that barrier. It is clear that this junior is making a tremendous statement for next season, as he rumbled for 1,513 yards and 14 TDs, following well in the footsteps of Pittsburgh Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall. Remember what happened the last time LeShoure played a game at a neutral site? He rushed the ball 33 times for 330 yards and a pair of TDs against the Northwestern Wildcats in the best day for an Illinois running back ever, and the best day that any back in the nation had this year. In total, LeShoure reached the 100+ yard mark eight times this season, and he has visited the end zone at least twice in a game six times. LeShoure has scored at least one TD in six straight games and has totaled 14 scores between rushing and receiving in that stretch. The Baylor rush defense struggled at times this year, particularly down the stretch when the team allowed 52 to the Oklahoma State Cowboys, 42 to the Texas A&M Aggies, and 53 to the Oklahoma Sooners. In total, allowing 153.2 yards per game was a remotely respectable number, ranking No. 67 in the country, but that’s just not going to get the job done in this game, as you know the Illini, who have one of the best rushing attacks in America, are not relenting.

Texas Bowl Odds at BetUS Sportsbook
Illinois Fighting Illini +1
Baylor Bears -1
Over/Under 62.5
Click Here to Bet on Your Texas Bowl Picks!

Key #2: Robert Griffin has to be the star that he is
Griffin really could have gone to basically any college that he wanted to, and everyone in Waco knew when he showed up in green and gold, it was only going to be a matter of time before he shined as a star and helped revive a program that has been in the depths of the Big XII since its formation. Now, in the final year of the conference in the form we know it in, Griffin has been the man to get the job done and carry this team to this, its first bowl game since before the Big XII was created. He led an offense this year that averaged 480.4 yards and 32.6 points per game, and it was a unit that was able to really shoot it out with some of the best teams in one of the best conferences in the country. Whether via his legs or his arm, there really is no stopping Griffin at times. He posted a QB rating of at least 100 in every single one of his games this year until the finale against the Sooners, and he rushed for 175 yards and a TD combined in his final two games of the season. The junior had the best year of his career, accounting for 3,195 yards as a passer and 591 on the ground, totaling 29 TDs against just eight picks. When you look at the average numbers this year for the Illinois defense, you see some respectable numbers at 340.4 yards and 24.2 points per game allowed, but we need to dig a little deeper in this one. Mobile quarterbacks aren’t exactly strewn all over the Big Ten, but there were three games this year against some majorly mobile stars. Yes, Northern Illinois’ Chandler Harnish and Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor were held to 22 and 24 points respectively, but Michigan’s Denard Robinson put 67 on the board! Obviously, an effort like that on Wednesday will spell death for the Illini.

Key #3: It’s time for the world to be introduced to Nathan Scheelhaase
Even though he is only a true freshman, Scheelhaase has arguably saved the job of Head Coach Ron Zook and has the Illinois program on the path to success in the near future. The young man was trusted with the starting signal caller job from Day 1 in Champaign, and he really didn’t disappoint. The only problem with Scheelhaase is that he really didn’t do a great job as a passer this year. He didn’t throw the ball more than 27 times in a game even once this year, and as a result, his only games with more than 200 yards passing came against the Southern Illinois Salukis and in that three OT thriller against Michigan in Ann Arbor. However, on the ground is a different story. Scheelhaase came right out of the blocks and rushed for 76 yards against a Missouri Tigers defense that turned out to be one of the best units in the country, and he ended up with five games with at least 95 yards as a runner this year. His best game was his last one against the Fresno State Bulldogs in which he rumbled for 1331 yards on 24 carries. It marked the fourth time in five games that he reached at least the 95 yard barrier. Scheelhaase ended the regular season with 815 yards and four scores on the ground, numbers which aren’t all that bad for a man that was sacked 20 times.

2009 College Football Early Season Tidbits

September 9th, 2009 by Travis Edwards (Bankroll Sports Contributor) | Posted in College Football   1 Comment »
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The opening week of college football is always exciting given the unknown factor entering the season. Not that college football lacks any surprises throughout the season, but all the previews for teams and everything just do not tell the story until the teams actually take the gridiron. Who could have predicted the mighty Oklahoma Sooners would fall in their first game of the season? There was a lot of interesting stories over the past 7 days and they are sure to continue as we prepare for round 2 this weekend. We will take a look at some of the teams that impressed last weekend as well as the ones who really disappointed. Keep these teams in mind before making your selections this Saturday and be sure to check out our expert picks here at

Surprise Teams:

No. 10 California Golden Bears

We warned a few weeks back that California could be the team to dethrone USC from the Pac-10 this season and they proved those expectations are legitimate with a 52-13 thrashing over Maryland last weekend. The Golden Bears possibly performed better than any of the top teams in the nation. Jahvid Best added more supporting evidence that he is the best running back in the land by carrying the ball just 10 times but posting 137 yards and 2 touchdowns in the process. Perhaps even more impressive was QB Kevin Riley. Riley threw 17 for 26 (65%) totaling 298 yards and 4 touchdowns. If the Golden Bears can have that type of success through the air with Best in the backfield, California can start thinking about a BCS Bowl Game by season’s end.

No. 9 BYU Cougars

I know a lot of people will be jumping on the BYU bandwagon after their huge upset over Oklahoma last weekend, but its hard to see if the Cougars were that impressive or simply the Sooners were not? The Cougars skyrocketed in the standings this week to #9 in the nation. The BYU defense is what really stood out in the game. The Cougars held the Oklahoma offense to just 265 yards of total offense nearly half what the Sooners offense produced in 2009. The Cougars defense returned 8 starters on that side of the ball and look very disciplined controlling the Sooners passing game. BYU has a favorable schedule for the rest of the season and that is why they are getting so much attention after the huge victory. The Cougars must be able to establish so more offense before they take on teams like Florida State and Utah, but they are definitely a team to keep on your radar this season. BYU is 17.5 point favorites on the road at Tulane this weekend to keep the momentum alive.

No. 23 Cincinnati Bearcats

The Bearcats took the Big East by surprise last year and evidently there has been a culture change down in Bearcats country that will be sticking around for a while. The Bearcats were 5 point underdogs on the road at Rutgers before the Cincinnati offense exploded to route the Scarlet Knights 47-15. QB Tony Pike led the no huddle offense to rack up a career high 362 yards of passing with 3 touchdowns. Cincinnati offense totaled 564 yards of total offense. The offense was so impressive they appear they could single handedly take down the Big East again this year. We know that is big words after just one game, but when are people going to start giving credit to the Bearcats program that looks as stable as any on top of the Big East.

Disappointment Teams:

No. 13 Oklahoma Sooners

Well, the idea of Sam Bradford returning to win a National Championship may already be out the window. There is no doubt that the Sooners loss this past weekend was the biggest shocker of opening week. Bradford went down with a shoulder injury and the Sooners offense never looked like the potent 50 point scoring machine they were in 2008. There is now even more concern with Bradford expected to miss as many as 4 weeks of football. Luckily, the schedule is less than difficult until they meet Miami 3 weeks from now. Still, the Sooners have tons of question marks to figure out. The offensive line did not look productive and it is apparent that the playmakers on the outside are vacant. It’s amazing how a team can be supernaturally powerful last season and come out looking like an average college football team a year later. There is work to be done and the Sooners best get things right before the Big 12 schedule starts. Oklahoma was previously number 3 in the country before dropping 10 spots with the defeat.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois has all the makings to be a very strong team in the Big Ten this season, but they actually became the only Big Ten team to lose this weekend. The Illini passing game was expected to be the difference maker this season and get the team back on the Bowl Game path. However, Illinois was blown out by Missouri 37-9 in a dismal defensive performance. Illinois managed over 325 yards of offense which may not be extremely impressive, but could have perhaps produced more than 9 points. Dual threat QB Juice Williams had a solid performance throwing the ball, but the Illini defense simply could not stop the Big 12 offense of Missouri. The Tigers racked up nearly 450 yards of total offense. The Illinois defense was the biggest concern heading into the year and perhaps an even bigger concern now. Williams gives the offense the potential to contend in the Big Ten, but the defense could make 2009 another long disappointment.

No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes

Illinois was not the only Big Ten team to disappoint this weekend. The Buckeyes nearly became the Oklahoma story early Saturday by barely escaping with a victory over Navy. The Buckeyes defense lost a ton of talent last season in players like Marcus Freeman, Malcolm Jenkins, and James Laurinaitis. The Buckeyes were expected to reload and remain a solid defensive threat. However whether it was the defense lack of experience or just simply thrown for a loop by the Navy option, the Buckeyes defense failed to impress giving up 342 yards on the game. The Ohio State offense managed just 365 total yards of offense and was far from overpowering. Of course, Terrelle Pryor remains a gifted talent that will give any defense a hard time. Still, that may not be enough if the Buckeyes do not find some explosion on offense and more productivity on the other side of the ball. The poor performance come from what many consider a weak opponent. However, the Buckeyes will have the opportunity to right the ship when they take on number 3 ranked USC Trojans this week. The Buckeyes will be 6.5 underdogs in the colossal battle that will take center stage Saturday night.