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Can Illinois take control of the Big Ten West?

Do you think Illinois gets it done on Saturday?

Jack Jungmann // TCR

For the third week in a row, Illinois football plays another HUGE game on Saturday. I think this is what having a program feels like. Illinois hosts Minnesota this Saturday at 11 a.m. in the 2022 edition of Illinois Homecoming. The winner of this game controls their own destiny in the Big Ten West. As we do every week, some of writers predicted the outcome of this game below:

Matt Rejc: #24 Illinois 21 - Minnesota 13

I’m making this prediction under the assumption that Tommy DeVito is able to play in this game at something close to 100%. Minnesota’s defense is just as good as Iowa’s, if not better, so this won’t be a shootout in either case. The defense could very well give up their first touchdown at home this week, but I expect the Illini offense to grind down the Gophers’ defense in much the same way they did last year. Illinois will take the lead late in the third quarter on a long touchdown reception by Pat Bryant, while Chase Brown puts the game away in the fourth quarter with a touchdown run that simultaneously gives him his eighth(!) 100+ yard rushing game this year. The win essentially leaves only Purdue as Illinois’ last potential barrier to a trip to Indy.

Ethan Parker: #24 Illinois 20 - Minnesota 14

With this prediction under the idea that Art “the Dart” will be under center, I can still see the Illini pulling out a victory. Although it was shaky for Art coming into last week’s game against Iowa, we do have to remember how dominant that Iowa defense is. Would I be more confident with Tommy… Yes, who wouldn’t? But Art does have the capabilities to lead a team down field. Plus, I don’t think he will do much of the leading. That of course will be the O-line and our Heisman Chase Brown. Minnesota only has 6 turnovers on the season, but that will be up to 8 after the Illini defense is done with them. Illinois gets its Homecoming win and sinks the Gopher’s boat.

Pleas Honeywood: #24 Illinois 17 - Minnesota 10

This is predicated upon Tommy DeVito being well enough to give it a go. It will be a packed house for Illini Homecoming, and this team has shown a knack for performing when the lights are bright. Nothing scares them, and Mohamed Ibrahim, as good as he is, can be stopped. The Illini would love Tanner Morgan to play just like he did last season in Minneapolis in that cult classic Illinois roadkill. I think P.J. and the rowers will keep it close, but Chase Brown will put up…ludicrous numbers on Saturday, leading to an Illini victory.

Jack Jungmann: Minnesota 16 - #24 Illinois 14

Here I go, continuing to play devil’s advocate. Emotions and excitement are the highest they’ve been for this program in well over a decade. I think Illinois loses this one in the most Illinois way possible. The first quarter goes scoreless, seeing the defensive, heavyweight bout this one is expected to be. Mo Ibrahim breaks the tie early in the second quarter with a redzone rushing TD. After being punched in the mouth, Barry Lunney decides to give Chase Brown the keys until Minnesota figures out a way to stop it. Chase Brown responds back with a redzone rushing TD of his own. Minnesota regroups and gets a FG on the board as time expires for the first half, a sign of things to come. Illinois gets the ball in the second half first and does the same exact thing that scored them their first touchdown. The score at this point is 14-10 Illinois midway through the 3rd quarter. Minnesota gets a field goal before the end of the quarter to cut the Illinois lead to 1. The fourth quarter goes scoreless until Minnesota executes a perfect 2-minute drill to drive down the field and kick the game-winning field goal as time expires. This Minnesota team is a lot better than Iowa. There’s no doubt we’ll be ready to play, I think Minnesota just capitalizes off of mistakes better.

Will Charlton: #24 Illinois 20 - Minnesota 13

This is assuming big time Tommy plays. With Art I think the Illini still win but it’s A LOT closer. The Gophers odds are for sure better if DeVito doesn’t go, but they will not be able to stop Chase Brown in this one. I think Chase is going to be an X-Factor regardless of who the QB is and I expect one of those games where he maybe even runs for over 150 again. I personally think whichever team has the better running back production in the game is the team who gets it done and I expect the unreal run defense of the Illini to continue their dominance. Tanner Morgan can make plays through the air and I expect a few of those from him, but Mo Ibrahim will not rush for more than 75 yards. Let’s go get a homecoming dub and put ourselves in the drivers seat in the Big Ten West. ILL.

Drew Pastorek: Minnesota 17 - #24 Illinois 13

I’m basing this prediction on Art Sitkowski being Saturday’s starting QB. Tanner Morgan is a better quarterback than Sitkowski, there’s really not much room for debate there. Morgan ought to make more plays through the air, as he is simply the best QB the Illini will have faced thus far (he says, while also acknowledging that Illinois boasts the best defense Minnesota will have faced).

The running back battle is the most scintillating matchup – Chase Brown accounted for almost all of Illinois’ offense in the second half last week, and is gonna be relied upon heavily again Saturday. Mo Ibrahim is back for Minnesota, but is he “back” or will he be slowed by that ankle injury? My guess is that he’ll be close to full speed.

The Illini’s ball security issues are real. They can’t afford costly mistakes like we saw last week. The Gophers are too good to let them off the hook. I’m hopeful that a near-capacity crowd can give Illinois some energy. But I’m not sure it’ll be enough…if Tommy DeVito can’t play.