Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Northwestern Wildcats: NCAA Football Free Preview

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The Illinois Fighting Illini (+18) aren’t traveling far to face their Big 10 nemesis No. 20 Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field. Kickoff for this matchup is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET and fans can catch it live by tuning in to BTN.

Betting Preview: Northwestern Wildcats vs. Illinois Fighting Illini

In this Saturday Big Ten matchup, Northwestern has been projected as the heavy favorite and the team’s currently giving up 18 points. In order to take the home favorite, moneyline bettors would currently need to lay down $1,500 to win $100 back on the Wildcats (-1500). The Fighting Illini are getting +810 moneyline odds. Vegas has determined the over/under (O/U) to be 58 points. It appears that there should be some solid live betting opportunities while this game is underway.

The game’s total has been driven lower after opening at 58.5. The original line of -18 has stayed firm.

The Fighting Illini are 4-7 against the spread (ATS) and have gained 0.9 units this season. The team’s posted an O/U record of 7-4.

The surprising Wildcats have gained 8.9 units in 2018. The team is 6-4-1 ATS and has an O/U record of 5-6.

The Fighting Illini are only 4-7 straight up (SU), including 2-6 SU against conference opponents. The Wildcats are 7-4 SU overall and 7-1 SU in conference play.

Northwestern comes into this matchup on a two-game losing streak while Illinois has come out on top in its last two in a row. The Fighting Illini are looking to bounce back after a 63-0 shutout to Iowa last week. The passing attack could’ve been better as AJ Bush completed just 12-of-28 passes for 82 yards and two interceptions. Ra’Von Bonner (111 rushing yards on 21 attempts) and the signal-caller Bush (18 yards on 12 carries) spearheaded the running attack in the loss. Ricky Smalling (three receptions, 27 yards) and Sam Mays (three catches, 24 yards) handled the receiving duties.

The Northwestern Wildcats enter this one after just earning a 24-14 win over Minnesota. The defense allowed the Golden Gophers to rush for 109 yards on 35 attempts, along with one rushing TD. Mohamed Ibrahim had a productive outing in the defeat for Minnesota, posting 98 rushing yards and a score on 20 attempts. For Northwestern, Clayton Thorson completed 15-of-21 passes for 230 yards. Isaiah Bowser (85 rushing yards on 29 attempts, two TDs) handled the ground game in the win as Riley Lees (four receptions, 48 yards) and Bennett Skowronek (two catches, 44 yards) led the receiving corps.

Illinois has run the ball on 61.4 percent of its offensive possessions this year while Northwestern has a rush percentage of 48.3 percent. The Fighting Illini have produced 252.5 rush yards per game (including 256.0 per game versus Big Ten opponents) and have 25 touchdowns via handoffs this year. The Wildcats are totaling 101.5 rushing yards per game (102.9 in conference) and have 21 total rush TDs.

The Fighting Illini offense has averaged 155.2 yards through the air overall (151.4 per game against conference opposition) and has nine passing TDs so far. The Wildcats have produced 248.5 pass yards per outing (238 against Big 10 foes) and have 12 total pass scores.

Defensively, Illinois has allowed opponents to rush for an average of 243.8 yards and pass for 277.0 yards per game. The Northwestern defense has allowed 234.1 yards per game to opposing passers and 132.9 yards per game to opposing runners. The Wildcats are allowing an adjusted net yards per pass attempt (ANY/A) of just 5.97 to opponents, while the Fighting Illini have given up a 7.53 ANY/A.

Offensively, Bush is up to 1,006 passing yards this year. The signal-caller has connected on 54 percent of his 153 attempts with five passing scores and seven interceptions. Bush has a 4.28 adjusted net yards per pass attempt overall, although that number is -0.02 over the last two games.

The Fighting Illini will probably try to control the clock by pounding the defense with their running backs. In addition to AJ Bush (zero receiving yards), Ra’Von Bonner (309 rush yards, two rush TDs) and Reggie Corbin (948 rush yards, nine rush TDs, 120 receiving yards) have brought significant production to the Illinois offensive scheme.

Clayton Thorson has connected on 224-of-368 passes for 2,443 yards, 11 TDs and 10 INTs for Northwestern. His ANY/A sits at 5.20 for the year and 4.47 across his past two outings.

The Wildcats also prefer to rely on their backfield. In addition to Isaiah Bowser (six receiving yards), Bennett Skowronek (461 receiving yards and one receiving TD) and JJ Jefferson (-3 rush yards, 188 receiving yards, two TDs) have gotten a lot of touches lately.

When these two squads met a year ago, Northwestern knocked off Illinois by five touchdowns 42-7.

Illinois Fighting Illini at Northwestern Wildcats Free NCAA Betting Tip

SU Winner: Northwestern, ATS Winner: Northwestern, O/U: Over

Team Betting Trends

  • The Northwestern offense has lost two fumbles this season while Illinois has lost 10.
  • The Illinois defense has 20 sacks on the year while Northwestern has 17.
  • Illinois has produced 7.6 yards per carry across its past three games and 5.8 over its last two.
  • Northwestern has averaged 3.1 yards per carry over its last three outings and 3.3 over its past two.
  • In its last three matchups, Northwestern is 2-0-1 ATS and the under cashed in two of those three.
  • The Over/Under for Illinois’ last game was set at 59.5. The over cashed in the team’s 63-0 defeat to Iowa.
  • In its last three games, Illinois is 1-2 ATS and the over cashed in each of those three.
  • The Over/Under for Northwestern’s previous outing was set at 48.5. The under cashed in the team’s 24-14 win over Minnesota.
  • Illinois has lost six of its last seven games SU, with a 24-point win over Minnesota on November 3rd representing the only victory over that stretch.
  • Northwestern has won seven of its last eight games SU, with a -10-point defeat to Notre Dame on November 3rd representing its lone loss over that span.