Illinois Fighting Illini (-6.5) @ Rutgers Scarlet Knights
A week after being part of the Big Ten West Toilet Bowl, losing 34-31 in overtime to Purdue, the Illinois Fighting Illini will take part in the Big Ten Toilet Bowl against Rutgers. The Illini are 1-4 and Rutgers might be their last legitimate chance of securing a win in 2016.
The Illini do walk into a favorable situation, though. Rutgers has been out-scored 150-7 through their first three Big Ten games, including losing to Michigan 78-0 a week ago. Illinois is no Ohio State or Michigan, but it’s safe to say that Chris Ash and his team are lacking confidence after suffering two straight losses by 50-plus points.
Rutgers’ quarterback Chris Laviano is completing only 47.4 percent of his passes in 2016, and the loss of their top playmaker, Janarion Grant, has caused their offense to go stagnant. Despite a strong start to the season, Robert Martin failed to get anything going against Ohio State and Michigan, marking this Rutgers’ offense as a disaster.
Even though Illinois is giving up 30 points per game, 4.4 yards per carry and allowed Purdue to rush for 231 yards a week ago with their backup running back, the Illini might be able to stop a powerful runner in Martin.
The Scarlet Knights have a depleted receiving core, and their quarterback is coming off two terrible weeks with questionable confidence. Illinois just needs to pack the box and force Laviano to beat them with his arm.
Although, an Illinois victory relies on the shoulders of sophomore quarterback Chayce Crouch. With Wes Lunt unlikely to play, Crouch needs to show the same poise he did last week after Lunt went down. Crouch threw for 157 yards on 12-of-18 passing and ran for 151 yards and two scores against Purdue. He has a chance to steal Lunt’s starting job with a couple of impressive starts.
Neither team is good, but the lack of confidence Rutgers has after the past two weeks gives the edge to Illinois. Besides, there is nothing to suggest that the Scarlet Knights know how to fix their offense without Grant.
Prediction: Illinois 34 Rutgers 20