Quentin Wetzel: Minnesota 27, Illinois 10
At this point in the season, I think we know who Illinois is. The Illini have a good, if not great, defense, but the offense is abysmal. Because of the strength of its defense, it’s hard for Illinois to get truly blown out à la 63-0, but the woeful offense makes it just as hard for Illinois to actually win games. And on the road against the 20th-ranked team? I know what Illinois did two weeks ago, but it’s probably not going to happen this time. The passing game did finally show some signs of life last week, so if that continues and the Illini force a few timely turnovers, they have a real shot. When you’re counting on turnovers to win a game, though (again, I know what happened two weeks ago), you’re in a bad place. Minnesota wins a snoozefest.
Drew Pastorek: Illinois +14.5
Minnesota has already lost FOUR running backs to a season-ending injury, but seemingly haven’t missed a step. Losing a player like Mo Ibrahim would derail most teams, so you have to credit P.J. Fleck & his staff for keeping guys ready.
The Illini rushed for just 107 yards last week versus Rutgers, but 357 against Penn State. Illinois would realistically need to be somewhere in the 200-yard range to control the game effectively and have a shot. However, the Golden Gophers rank eighth nationally and second in the Big Ten in rush defense, allowing 92.9 ypg. The Illini passing game showed signs of competency for the first time since the UTSA game, which gives me a bit more hope that the Orange & Blue can keep things close. Ultimately, this has feel of one of those games — I believe Thump refers to it as a “gentleman’s blowout” — where Illinois mostly hangs in and competes but is never actually a threat to win.
Stephen Cohn: Minnesota 24, Illinois 9
Quentin said it best, saying we know who Illinois is by Nov. 6. And while Bret Bielema has given me more than enough reasons to think the Illini can be competent in the seasons ahead, a loss to Rutgers at home doesn’t give me hope that Illinois can pull off another upset on the road against a ranked team.
We know the newly extended PJ Fleck had Lovie Smith’s number for the most part, and I do think Bret can take PJ on and row his boat, but right now, the Gophers are seemingly playing for a lot more. And they’ll probably dominate this game. Let’s get a few field goals!