VegasInsider.com
VI Mobile Scores and Betting OddsVI Mobile Scores and Betting Odds Be Social
Home
NFL
NBA
NHL
MLB
NCAA FB
NCAA BK
Golf
Auto
Horses
Soccer
Boxing/MMA
More
Betting Tools

 
Illini big test for Huskers' struggling defense

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - What once looked like a cushy October schedule for Nebraska might have become more of a challenge.

Advertisement
The way the Cornhuskers' defense has performed through four games surely has Illinois thinking it could steal a win at Memorial Stadium on Saturday and end its 14-game Big Ten losing streak.

Nebraska (3-1) is 107th nationally in total defense and no higher than 75th in any major category. Illinois (3-1) has displayed a versatile offense that's averaging almost 480 yards a game under first-year coordinator Bill Cubit and fourth-year starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase.

``It makes things difficult on defenses just because one play we can be in a five-wide set throwing the ball around,'' Scheelhaase said, ``and the next play we can have three tight ends and two backs in the game, kind of pounding the ball.''

The Huskers allowed 465 yards to FCS South Dakota State in their last game and used their bye week to shore up deficiencies ranging from missed tackles to attitude.

Coach Bo Pelini said he still sees potential in his defense. ``You don't build it in a day,'' he said.

But his patience has been tested after watching Wyoming amass more than 600 yards in a three-point Nebraska win, the Huskers blow an 18-point lead and lose by 20 to UCLA and South Dakota State's Zach Zenner gash his way to 202 yards.

No one expects a low-scoring game. Illinois' defense has been as bad as Nebraska's, and the Huskers' offense is churning out almost 500 yards a game.

Nebraska will start Tommy Armstrong Jr. at quarterback for the second straight game as Taylor Martinez recovers from a nagging injury to his left big toe. Armstrong was sharp against South Dakota State, but the stakes are now higher for the redshirt freshman.

The Huskers came into the season picked to battle Michigan for a spot in the Big Ten championship game. The October stretch - at home against Illinois and on the road against both Purdue and Minnesota - was expected to be a warm-up for bigger games in November.

Michigan's recent struggles and Nebraska's defensive problems have created a wide-open race in the Legends Division.

``I think we can beat any football team that we line up against,'' Pelini said. ``I also understand that there are a lot of football teams out there that can beat up on us if we don't take care of us.''

Here are five things to know as Illinois and Nebraska start Big Ten play:

HUSKERS IN BIG TEN: Since it started Big Ten play in 2011, Nebraska has won 12 of 16 regular-season conference games. Penn State and Michigan also are 12-4 over that stretch. No one else has won more than 10. The Huskers go into Saturday's game on a six-game regular-season conference win streak.

THAT AWFUL STREAK: Last year, Illinois' 14-game conference losing streak was a hot topic among fans and media. Scheelhaase said he and his teammates have tuned out that talk this year.

``All we know is we're a 3-1 football team right now headed into conference play, getting to play a team that won their (division) last year.''

NEBRASKA LINEUP CHANGES: David Santos has bumped Josh Banderas from the starting middle linebacker's job. Corey Cooper has locked up one safety spot, but Pelini didn't name a starter at the other. Harvey Jackson struggled against South Dakota State and has been pushed by LeRoy Alexander, Andrew Green and Charles Jackson.

RUNNER AND RECEIVER: While Cubit is credited with helping revive Scheelhaase's career, running back Jason Ferguson also has benefited. Ferguson has rushed 30 times for 196 yards, and he's the Illini's leading receiver with 12 catches for 262 yards.

PROTECTING THE QB: Nebraska has allowed just two sacks in four games for a nation-best average of .50. That's a huge improvement from last year, when the Huskers ranked 105th in sacks allowed after giving up 35 in 14 games (2.5 average).

``It's a huge emphasis,'' offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles said. ``Those two sacks still bother us because we want to have zero sacks.''

---

Associated Press Writer David Mercer in Champaign, Ill., contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written
consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

  
HEADLINES
Williams: Saturday's Early Bowl Tips
Rogers: College Bowl Pick'em
Marshall: Bowl Tech Trends - Week 1
BetDSI: Saturday's Bowl Best Bets
BetOnline.ag: Saturday's Bowl Outlook
Bookmaker: CFP Betting Notes
Marshall: Bowl Tech Trends - Week 2
Marshall: Bowl Tech Trends - Week 3
WVU QB Grier to return for senior season
MORE HEADLINES
 
Why Buy Picks From VegasInsider.com
NCAAFB College Football Handicapper Sports Picks Records
NCAA FB Hot Streaks
20-5 Streak, 71% +2,769 Overall
17-5 Run, 7-1 Totals, 63% +2,505
4-0 G-Plays, 14-4 Picks, +1,748 TY
9-3 L12, 23-9 Run, 13-2 G-Plays
4-0 L4, 18-8 Picks, 16-5 Totals
9-2 L11 Picks, 61% +1,345 TY
31-14 L45 G-Plays, 3-1 L4 Totals
19-8 Picks, 4-1 G-Plays, 12-5 Totals
12-5 G-Plays, 36-21 Run, +1,442
9-4 L13 G-Plays, 22-12 L34 Picks
4-1 L5 Picks, 15-7 G-Plays, +1,497
5-0 G-Plays, 4-1 Totals, 9-4 Picks
4-1 Picks, 9-3 G-Plays, +1,093 TY
10-3 This Month, 22-10 L32 G-Plays
30-15 Record L11 Saturdays
6-1 L7 College Guarantees
5-1 Last 6 NCAA FB Run
7-2 L9 G-Plays, 5-2 L7 Picks
9-4 Record L13 CFB Picks
13-6 L19 G-Plays, 4-2 L6 Selections
NCAA FB College Football Expert Sports Picks - New Orleans Bowl - Troy Trojans vs North Texas Mean Green
2017 CFB SEASON PICK RECORDS
Money Leaders
Handicapper Money
Scott Pritchard + 2769
Vince Akins + 2505
Mark Franco + 1748
Last Week's Leaders
Handicapper Money
Micah Roberts + 200
Andy Iskoe + 100
Pat Hawkins + 100
Percentage Leaders
Handicapper Pct
Scott Pritchard 71 %
Vince Akins 63 %
Dave Cokin 61 %
Guaranteed Leaders
Handicapper Money
Antony Dinero + 1555
Scott Pritchard + 1264
Bruce Marshall + 853
Over-Under Leaders
Handicapper Money
Kyle Hunter + 1492
Scott Pritchard + 1124
Vince Akins + 610
Member Leaders
Handicapper Money
Mark Franco + 980
Marc Lawrence + 971
Gary Bart + 713
MORE PICK RECORDS
  
corner graphic
With a VI Gold Membership, you can SAVE 10% off a Live Odds subscription, SAVE 20% off Daily Pick packages, and receive access to up to 1,000 Member Plays each month!
VI Gold Membership