The Illinois Fighting Illini welcomes the Indiana Hoosiers to Champaign for the first time since 2012 on Saturday. Here are some of the key matchups we are looking out for.
Illinois front seven vs. Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow
Like Illinois, Indiana has been alternating quarterbacks, using both redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey and senior Richard Lagow. Ramsey was banged up in Indiana’s loss last week to Wisconsin and in a few other games, too, this season, leaving the senior Lagow to step up in some pretty tough circumstances.
At 6-foot-6 and weighing 240 pounds, Richard Lagow is a pure pocket passer and is not a threat to pull the ball down and run at all. Illinois defensive tackles Jamal Milan and Tymir Oliver up the middle, and James Crawford, Isaiah Gay and Bobby Roundtree off the edges must get to Lagow and make him feel uncomfortable. If the senior quarterback gets into a rhythm and has time to play pitch-and-catch with his receivers, this will be a long Saturday for Illinois.
Illinois cornerback Jaylen Dunlap vs. Indiana wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr.
Indiana wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. is a menace of playmaker, and without question he’ll be one of the best receivers Illinois has faced all season long. He’s the type of wide receiver that demands complete attention from the opponent’s best cornerback. In Illinois’ case, that would be senior and defensive captain Jaylen Dunlap. Don’t be surprised if Illini true freshman cornerback Nate Hobbs also gets in on Simmie Cobbs Jr. assignment if Dunlap struggles.
Cobbs, along with Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore, leads the Big Ten Conference in receptions with 59. That’s more than double the amount of receptions Illinois leader Malik Turner has so far this season. Cobbs is a go-to receiving threat with some off-the-charts ball skills in the end zone.
There are so many catches from Cobbs’ career that stand out. This one earlier this season might be the best of his entire career against the Ohio State Buckeyes:
Lagow is a YOLO ball king. Simmie Cobbs goes up there and gets it and he had a monster game against Ohio State. pic.twitter.com/1CW1cYijFe— Riley Auman (@junioraumanac) September 29, 2017
Illinois offensive awareness vs Indiana linebacker Tegray Scales
There are a few players — not many, count them on one hand — in the Big Ten that could step onto an NFL team tomorrow and make an immediate impact. Indiana linebacker Tegray Scales is one of those players, and he could have entered the 2017 NFL Draft back in April but opted to finish his collegiate career at Indiana.
Scales led the conference in tackles a year ago and led the entire nation in tackles for loss in 2016. He has picked up right where he left off in 2017. He’s savvy and instinctual. He’s downright nasty with some of the hard-hitting tackles he makes, blowing right through offensive linemen with a burst rarely seen in the college game.
He had an interception last week against Wisconsin, but really his greatest strength is filling the gaps to stop the run:
Jefferson will likely be off the board, I also like Tegray Scales pic.twitter.com/pSOsuxJi6I— Maliik (@Obee1ne) October 17, 2017
Similar to the approach against Purdue linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley last week, Illinois must know and be aware of where Tegray Scales is at all times, and maybe use some delay-option read offense to try to keep him off ball.