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NCAA Football Simulation Week 1: Youngstown State at Illinois

Set the weekly team match-up, look at the predicted weather forecast and game time, sync the line-ups, update rosters, match the playbooks, set the difficulty to Heisman, and let 'er rip!

Guess who runs back a punt...
Guess who runs back a punt...
Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

With a nod to the MI Sousaphone Section, this season we'll be simulating every Illini football game (home and away) to see who EA Sports favors in our match-ups this season.  Here are the rules we will follow:

- All rosters and starting line-ups will be updated weekly to ensure all the right players are in the game.

- The weather forecast will be applied to the conditions as well as the time of day.

- Difficulty settings will be set to Heisman and the clock will run full 15 minute quarters.

(Since YSU is an FCS team, the FCS Midwest default team was used for this simulation)

1st Half

Wes Lunt, welcome to the Illini offense.  After an opening field goal from Taylor Zalewski (24 yds), Lunt took the next two possessions down the field for touchdowns.  Throw in a rushing TD from Josh Ferguson and you're looking at 414 total yards of total offense (151 on the ground with 2 TDs, and 263 in the air with 2 more TDs).  The blemishes in the first half were an interception thrown in the Red Zone late in the 1st quarter and a missed 41-yard field goal by Zalewski.

Oh, and by the way...V'Angelo Bentley returned his first punt of the season 70 yds for a touchdown.  Don't act so surprised.

Defensively, the Illini started slow.  They couldn't stop the running game of the Penguins and it resulted in a rushing TD (but they blocked the extra point!).  Overall, they gave up 197 yards of total offense.

Halftime score: 37-6 ILLINI.

2nd Half

The story of the game was the complete turnaround by the Illini defense.  After some adjustments in formation, the secondary snagged 3 interceptions and recovered one fumble for a total of 4 TURNOVERS.  They also held the offense under 100 yards in the second half.

On offense, Lunt threw for one more touchdown pass to Malik Turner.  That brought his total stats to 28-49 (57%) for 385 yards, 3TDs and 1 Interception.  Reilly O'Toole would get a few reps and go 6-13 (46%) 0-0.  Aaron Bailey wasn't utilized as much as I'd expected, as he only touched the ball 7 times rushing for 16 yards.  Geronimo Allison led WRs with 9 Catches (199yds and a TD) and Josh Ferguson was the leading HB with an impressive 45 touches (204 yds and 2 TDs).  If that becomes a constant for these guys, it's going to be a fun year.

On Special Teams, Zalewski finished the day 4-6 (66%) on FGs with a long of 26yds, and 5-6 (83%) in PATs.  This to me is a little scary, and I know that Taylor will be more consistent kicking the ball (the simulation can't be PERFECT).  Justin DuVernois punted the ball 11 times and averaged 45 yds per punt (I'll take that all day)

Areas of concern lies in the penalties (10 for 70 yds) and our red zone conversion rate (14 attempts, 5 TDs, 4 FGs)

BUT, the offense produced 729 total yards of offense and the defense only gave up 286 total yards.

Final Simulation Score: ILLINI 53 - YSU 13