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TCR Staff Predictions: Illinois vs. Rutgers

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Can the Illini go ABOVE .500?

NCAA Football: Illinois at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Cohn: Illinois 37, Rutgers 7

Is Illinois’ defense elite? I don’t think so, but Desmond Howard certainly does. And since he said that on College Gameday before the Illini/Wolverines game, he has been right. The Illini’s defense has shut down Michigan (second half), Wisconsin and Purdue, and I don’t see Rutgers being the end to that trend. Brandon Peters continues to do just enough as the backs take care of business and the defense lets the Scarlet Knights have nothing in a blowout win.

Thumpasaurus: Illinois 31, Rutgers 24

Look, I know they’re bad, but this is Illinutgers. You throw out the record book and the stat sheet with a rivalry game like this. Johnny Langan put the team on his back last week, throwing and running for a bunch of yards. A quarterback willing to run the ball is going to be a problem. The biggest advantage for Illinois is that Rutgers is openly tanking by redshirting Raheem Blackshear, who has been a major thorn in the side of the Illini as the top receiver for the Scarlet Knights despite being a tailback. Still, with Nunzio Campanile playing with house money, perhaps they dial up an option game with Langan and Isaiah Pacheco that distracts the Illini sufficiently to open up some running room. Illinois proved it can run the ball against a lower-tier Big Ten run defense, so they’ll keep that going without really seeing a need to throw too much.

The key difference in this game is that Illinois fumbles four times and loses all four, while forcing six fumbles and recovering none. Despite this, they lead for most of the game. The upside of these fumble outcomes would be that Illinois continues to lead the nation in forced fumbles, but the season fumble recovery rate numbers look a lot closer to what statistical analysis of fumble recovery shows to be the expected outcome. That way, we can all shut up about regressing to the mean and unsustainable luck with respect to fumble recovery rate, but we can do so without losing a game.

Real talk, I expect Illinois to win by more than this, but I set some low bars for the Illini to clear in the last two weeks and they leapt over them. Do you really want me to predict a huge triumphant blowout and break up something that’s been working for two straight games? No, dear reader, you do not.

Michael Berns: Illinois 45, Rutgers 14

Yeah, I’ve been really, really off in my last two predictions, but I feel pretty confident in this one. Rutgers is horrible, “plain and simple” as Lovie likes to say. They are the second-worst Big Ten offense Illinois will face the rest of season (ahead of Northwestern), and they are THE worst Big Ten defense left on the schedule.

Rutgers cannot stop anyone and Illinois cruises to a home victory against the rudder-less Scarlet Knights. Brandon Peters passes for over 350 yards in this one,.

Kyle Huisinga: Illinois 31, Rutgers 10

Three wins in a row? When has that happened in Big Ten play? Because it should definitely happen this Saturday. You cannot overlook anyone if you’re Illinois, but Rutgers is bad. Historically bad. They’ve already fired their head coach and benched their starting quarterback. Their defense is abhorrent. Their offense putrid. As long as Illinois doesn’t turn the ball over and plays defense like the last two weeks, this should be an easy win. This is the Wisconsin game for Rutgers. They won’t roll over. Just take care of business, and this should be an easy win.

Drew Pastorek: Illinois 27, Rutgers 16

Holy moly. What a difference two weeks makes. The Illini avoided the letdown by dominating Purdue, now it’s time to do what’s expected. We have #Illinutgers marked on our calendars every year as the one game B1G Illinois can probably win; but a win this week means the Orange & Blue would be just one victory away from a bowl game. Rutgers is a mess, as my esteemed colleagues have mentioned. But we’ve seen Illinois struggle against QBs that can run, and the Scarlet Knights moved the ball pretty well last week. We rarely see the Illini blow anybody out, mostly because the passing game hasn’t come together. I don’t think Brandon Peters will need to throw much. Reggie and Dre will help control the clock, which keeps this game tighter than it probably should be.

Matt Rejc: Illinois 42, Rutgers 28

Illinois is due for a few back-to-earth moments, but I don’t think that stands in the way of the Illini moving to 5-4 in early November. The Scarlet Knights know that this is one of their few remaining “winnable” games, and will no doubt bring their top effort on the road. This will lead to a Rutgers lead by halftime, but Illinois’ superior depth and talent should take over in the second half. Dre Brown and Reggie Corbin each rush for over 100 yards, and Brandon Peters throws a pair of touchdown passes to Daniel Barker and Casey Washington.

Let us know your score prediction in the comments!