To Illini football fans this season so far has been in a lot of ways disappointing. Diminished by Covid-19 and a variety of injuries, the Illini sit at 0-3 and this weekend are favored to lose.
Despite the Illini’s odds, this weekend will likely be the team’s best odds to win a game this year after the tough start.
On the other hand Rutgers has shown some improvement on both sides of the ball since last year. The Scarlet Knights (1-2) have some hope and optimism in their locker room and I expect it to show on Saturday. For head coach Greg Schiano and the Scarlet Knights this is a must-win game at home. Illinois vs. Rutgers is scheduled to kickoff at 12 p.m. CT Saturday in New Brunswick.
The Scarlet Knights offense is led by Nebraska transfer Noah Vedral. In three games, Vedral has 467 yards passing and three touchdowns.
Rutgers also has a number of different backs who get touches. Isaih Pacheco, Kay’Ron Adams, and Aaron Young have combined for 260 yards and 2 touchdowns. Vedral’s top targets are Bo Melton and Aaron Cruickshank who have combined for 29 catches for 190 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Rutgers’ offense isn’t anything special by any means, but the Illini defense has yet to show it can stop an offense for a full game.
The Scarlet Knights defense has not been anything spectacular this year either. The Illini should have opportunities to make plays on the offensive side of the ball.
Rutgers ranks ninth in yards given up (411 per game) in the Big Ten. They have allowed an average of 37.7 points per game this season as well. However, Rutgers’ run defense has been impressive ranking second in the Big Ten (120.7 ypg).
The defense is led by senior linebacker Tyshon Fogg. Fogg has recorded 28 total tackles on the season including 1 forced fumbled and 2 tackles for loss.
Similar to last year, Rutgers’ special teams unit has held its own, especially the punting/kicking game. Adam Korsak was second behind Black Hayes last year being named second team all conference. Korsak is similar to Blake Hayes in his finnesse and ability to pin the offense deep.
Rutgers hired Adam Scheier as their special teams coach this offseason but has yet to show any explosive plays in their return game. It’s possible Saturday the punters’ play a crucial role in the outcome of this game.