Thumpasaurus: Every performance in Big Ten play has either been a crushing defeat or a dominating win. I’m anticipating a loss at Nebraska, but hoping that it’s the first middle-of-the-road competitive loss of the conference season. Nebraska’s offense is much more prolific at running the ball than is Minnesota’s, and I don’t think we’ll have as much success against their offensive line. What really worries me is their quarterback Adrian Martinez, who is probably the quickest quarterback we’ve faced all season. Nebraska’s offense is much less predictable than Minnesota’s, and with the threat of JD Spielman in the passing game Illinois might simply have to choose between allowing the Huskers to march down the field and risking a big play by getting aggressive.
I do, however, think the offense can keep pace with the help of the disparity between the special teams units. Illinois averages a respectable starting field position, while Nebraska’s is 129th in the country. Furthermore, Nebraska has not been great against the run and has really struggled in rushing explosiveness on defense. If AJ Bush plays like he did against Minnesota, this has the makings of a track meet. Nebraska’s offense is too consistent for us to keep pace. Nebraska 45, Illinois 38
Matt Rejc: AJ Bush truly did turn a corner in last week’s game, as we finally saw the quarterback who the coaching staff was raving about in camp. But this week the quality of the competition will increase considerably. Nebraska is a talented team that has looked lost under a first year head coach, not unlike the Huskers team led by then-head coach Mike Riley that the Illini defeated in 2015. Unlike in that matchup, the Huskers have taken their bruises and are finally playing better football, as they showed last week in Columbus. This game will be a sort of back-to-earth game for Illinois unfortunately. Nebraska 50, Illinois 24.
Mark Schaer: I have a bad feeling as many of the writers do that last week’s game was an outlier, albeit a mostly dominating game against the Fleckster. It really improved my weekend. But Nebraska has been improving while the Gophers appear to be regressing in ability. Scott Frost will be looking for a few more wins down the stretch and being at home will be a big advantage for the Huskers. Reggie will have another 100-yard day, but I don’t think the defense will hold Adrian Martinez. I think the slightly different play calling on defense under Lovie will allow them to play more like the Minnesota game than the Maryland game, but that won’t be enough. Nebraska 37, Illinois 21
Michael Berns: I’m a prisoner of the moment, and the way the Illini ground game looked last week against a Minnesota run-defense that was statistically average — I have more hope for this team than I’ve had at any point since the Kent State/Western games. This has been a “everything that can go wrong, will go wrong” type of season for Nebraska. Don’t let last weekend’s close Ohio State game fool you, that said more about Ohio State and their weaknesses than it did about Nebraska’s improvement. The Cornhuskers don’t get the explosive plays they need to win this game. Illinois 48, Nebraska 35
Was the team we saw last weekend the same Illinois team we saw in weeks 1-8? The play exhibited by this team leaves two succinct possibilities. The first is that the Minnesota performance was an outlier and they will come back to earth. The second, and CORRECT one, is this team is getting set to play in the Big Ten Championship game. Seriously, though, I do think that the Illini can get a win Saturday and will be trying to win one of two to make a bowl for the first time since what feels like the stone age. Corbin will rush for 200+ and Bush will add a combined 200+ as Illinois wins 38-33
Let’s just hope the momentum from Minnesota carries over. Nebraska is talented. The environment will be hostile. But there’s a reason they are 2-7. Adrian Martinez has played really well of late, and is the kind of quarterback that gives Illinois fits. However, I’m starting to believe in Lovie as a defensive playcaller after their effort last week. I saw more blitzes, stunts and man coverage against Minnesota than I had in the two years prior. Let’s hope that creativity continues and our offense rolls over a so-so defense. I think they will, and pull off the upset in Lincoln. Illinois 35 Nebraska 24