Thumpasaurus: Maryland 52, Illinois 10
Virginia is probably fairly good, but current advanced stats indicate that Maryland is better, especially on defense. Jehlani Woods and Keytoan Thompson were impossible assignments for the Illini secondary; Dontay Demus and Rakim Jarrett will humiliate them. If we come out in man coverage again, we’ll probably be down 14-0 before I can finish my first drink again. Taulia Tagovailoa is capably mobile and the Maryland offensive line certainly looks like they can keep the Illini pass rush at bay.
Maryland’s defense will not be as aggressive and disruptive, which might mean that Illinois can have some success on the ground, but they’re in a position where they’ll probably be compelled to go to the air to keep pace with a potent Terps offense. Sitkowski has really struggled to lead his receivers, but I don’t know that Peters improves the passing attack enough to make a difference as to whether we win or lose the game.
It’s gonna be a long season, and it’s not clear when any improvement can be expected. Purdue could hang even more on us. I see no reason for any team with a decent passing game to score less than 35 against the Illini.
Matt Rejc: Maryland 33, Illinois 24
The return of Brandon Peters should breathe more life into this offense than we’ve seen in the past two weeks. But I don’t think it’ll be enough to overcome Maryland’s passing game under Taulia Tagovailoa, who will no doubt exploit many of the same weaknesses that Virginia picked apart last weekend. Combined with the injuries that are starting to pile up on the Illinois roster, this defeat will likely be a sign of things to come for the Illini later in the year.
Jeff Horwitz: Maryland 38, Illinois 24
In week 1, UTSA’s mid-major offensive line simply outlasted Illinois’s experienced front in the ground game. In week 2, Brennan Armstrong made Illinois’s secondary look like an NFC North team. Tony Adams was lost in man coverage against Virginia, and Sydney Brown might miss this week’s game. Taulia Tagovailoa must be salivating. I hope that the return of Brandon Peters makes a difference, but realistically I’ll take Maryland to cover the -7.5 point spread.
Drew Pastorek: Maryland 42, Illinois 24
In the preseason I penciled this in as a victory for the Orange & Blue. And while the Terps still haven’t convinced me they are good, the Illini have certainly convinced me they are bad — specifically on the defensive side. Let me crunch some numbers for you: Illinois is 91st in rushing defense (170 ypg), Maryland is 45th in rush offense (195.5 ypg). Maryland is 14th in passing offense (339.5 ypg), Illinois is 122nd — out of 130 teams — in pass defense (311.7 ypg allowed).
To be fair, the Terrapins’ offensive numbers are inflated due to playing Howard last week. But the Illini made Brennan Armstrong look like a Heisman winner and Taulia Tagovailoa has even better skill talent to throw to. I’m sure that Bret Bielema’s staff will at least try to make some adjustments, but there are still plenty of mismatches Maryland can exploit. At least we’ll have an entire Saturday free...I hear farmers’ markets are lovely this time of year.
Billy Lawton: Maryland 38, Illinois 14
We’ve seen more of the same from Illinois so far this season that we’ve seen in the past: an inconsistent passing attack and terrible secondary play that gets burned seemingly on every play. That’s going to be a problem against Maryland’s 14th ranking passing attack (339.5 YPG), especially since they aren’t particularly effective at creating pressure to compensate for their poor secondary play (85th in tackles for loss, 68th in sacks so far this season). Illinois’ middling running game (85th, 143 YPG) may see issues as well against Maryland’s 12th ranked rushing defense. While having quarterback Brandon Peters back may help, it won’t do much good if he’s running for his life the whole time behind a line that’s struggled to get any kind of consistent push up front in the run or pass games.
It’s likely to be a short day to Taulia Tagovailoa and Maryland, so cheers to next year when, hopefully, this team will take a step forward by learning and growing from tough outings like this.
Quentin Wetzel: Maryland 38, Illinois 31
The first few weeks of the college football season are always so fascinating. Fanbases are rife with overreaction, and everyone is trying to pin down just how good (or bad) their team is. For Illinois this year, it seems like fans’ reactions after three weeks have coalesced into something like “Illinois is bad, Nebraska is really, really bad, and Virginia might be sneaky good.” But... I’m not so sure that Nebraska’s that bad. Since losing the opener, the Cornhuskers have beaten Fordham 52-7 and Buffalo 28-3. I don’t think an awful team wins two games like that. But if Nebraska isn’t that bad, then what does that make Illinois?
In my mind, there are two possible answers to that question. The first is that Bielema keeping his schemes under wraps until game one actually worked really well, and that’s the only reason Illinois beat Nebraska. There’s probably some element of truth to that. But I also think that maybe Illinois isn’t as bad as fans think. Maybe there’s still a bowl team in there somewhere. Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t think that Illinois will beat Maryland on Friday. But with Brandon Peters returning, I think the Illini have a real shot. After all, Illinois is still first place in the Big Ten West...