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Can Illinois beat Wyoming? Our writers say yes

TCR writers don’t see a way Illinois drops this one.

Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Illinois kicks off the 2022 football season on Saturday. Some of our writers weighed in on Illinois’s game against the Wyoming Cowboys, giving a score predictions and a few reasons why. Read them below:

Raul Rodriguez: Illinois 38 - Wyoming 14:

Wyoming is well-coached and their coach Craig Bohl has brought them consistency. But, the transfer portal took some key players from the Cowboys and they did not do much, via the portal, to replace the losses. Wyoming is, therefore not in the best place coming into this game. The Illini, on the other hand, enter year 2 of the Bielema era with some hope given Devito at QB with new OC Barry Lunney who some skill position pieces to play with in Isaiah Williams and Chase Brown. The defense should be better acclimated to Ryan Walter 3-4 scheme in year 2 of running that scheme. Expect the Illini to be steady but dominant in the 1st half jumping to a 21-0 halftime lead. The defense gives up a few drives in the second half but the offense continues to push Wyoming around. The Illini look comfortable all day and then set their sights for the big game in Bloomington six days later.

Mihir Chavan: Illinois 37 - Wyoming 10:

We see a revitalized offense. The defense is optimized from what is last year. Offense scores 3 TDs, defense scores another, 3 field goals, and 1 punt to start the season. Illinois slows the pace down and controls the pace of play the entire game. No big plays yet, but the full play clock is used, giving Illinois a chance to try things out on offense without opening up the entire playbook, as Indiana is next week. With a lack of penalties from both sides of the ball, the clock runs and Illinois has multiple 6+ minute drives to score the ball on 6 of their 7 possessions in the game, something we havent seen happen in big ten football unless you are Ohio State. The pace of play is slow, but Illinois doesn’t turn the ball over, playing a clean game in front of a 70% capacity home crowd. Illinois starts the season on a high and brings the entire playbook to Indiana, making the Wyoming game tape more or less useless for the Hoosiers. Boring game, but Illinois’ offense packs a punch.

Matt Rejc: Illinois 17 - Wyoming 10:

Although I said in a previous post that I thought Illinois would start 0-1, I did a bit more digging and realized that this is not at all the same Wyoming Cowboys as last year. But I still haven’t wavered in my belief that this will be a truly ugly and low-scoring game, much like the Charlotte game last year. The installation of a new offense is never a seamless process. The Illini will make more than their fair share of mistakes in the opener. I expect Illinois to be trailing at halftime, only to tie the game with a long Chase Brown touchdown run in the third quarter and seal the victory with an Isaiah Williams end-around touchdown in the fourth. It may be a rocky start, but I think this team will put it all together later in the year and surprise some Big Ten teams during conference play.

Kyle Tausk: Illinois 31 - Wyoming 13:

Illinois should get this one done with relative ease. Wyoming loses the 4th most production in the country from last year’s bowl team and will inevitably go through some growing pains against a Power 5 opponent in Week 0. I think the Illini come out a little sluggish early as they adjust to a new offense in real game action but eventually, their playmakers in Chase Brown, Josh McCray, and Isaiah Williams are just far too much for the Cowboy defense to handle. While I expect there to be an adjustment period for Ryan Walters’ defense as well with so many new starters, I don’t think this Wyoming offense should give them much trouble. Should be a great opportunity to mix and match some guys and allow some younger pieces to get reps if this game goes the way it should. 1-0 start with a very winnable road tilt with the Hoosiers soon to come.

Will Charlton: Illinois 30 - Wyoming 13:

I think the Illini will get the season started off nicely in this game. The Illini get out to a two score lead early on and set the tone. The new offense succeeds in Lunney’s first game as OC- and that’s especially true for the ground game as I think that the Illini will rush for 250+ yards and score 2 of 3 touchdowns on rushes. The defense looks very stout to start out the season against a pretty solid Cowboy offense, and a couple turnovers will set the Illini up with scoring drives as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if the score is a bit closer than this 17-point margin I’m predicting, but I do expect the Illini to win by at least two scores. Let’s get this party started, ILL baby.

Jack Jungmann: Illinois 24 - Wyoming 10:

I think this game will be a lot slower than people expect. In a game that will look like a typical low-scoring Big Ten game, not much will happen in the first half. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this game tied at halftime. In the second half, I expect Illinois to show the power 5 team in them and just outlast them. I see Chase Brown exploding for a long run on the first drive out of halftime, capping it with a Josh McCray goal line TD. Then, in an 8-minute drive stretching between the third and fourth quarters, Tommy Devito drives the final nail in the coffin with a short TD pass to Tip Reiman on a goal line slip. Illinois starts 1-0 and heads to Bloomington with confidence.

Ben Pekay: Illinois 13 - Wyoming 10:

This one is going to be a slugfest. Both teams are known for their strong defenses and rely on the running game. Illinois and Wyoming come out sluggish early with defenses getting stops throughout the first half. Going into the half, the Illini are going to be up 7-0 with Chase Brown breaking a tackle for a touchdown. After the half, Wyoming will tie it up on a drive led by Andrew Peasley and both teams will exchange field goals. In the final minutes, Tommy Devito will lead a game-winning drive down the field and Illinois will kick a game-winning field goal. This win will give the Illini confidence against tougher opponents.

Drew Pastorek: Illinois 23 - Wyoming 13:

Wyoming is a very different team outside of Laramie, and Josh Allen ain’t running out of that tunnel. The Cowboys lost their leading receiver, leading rusher, and top two QBs from last year’s roster. Most of the Illini’s key departures were on the defensive side (Roderick Perry, Owen Carney, Kerby Joseph, just to name a few). Wyoming was ravaged by the transfer portal, Illinois is probably introducing a new quarterback and definitely introducing a new OC. Bret Bielema has also indicated that many players will see action for the first time. This could be the proverbial rockfight.

I expect the game to get off to a very slow start. Both teams like to run the ball and control the clock. I just believe Illinois’ runners and blockers are better. I also tend to think Illinois will employ a fairly conservative game plan because Bret Bielema will want to avoid showing Indiana too much. The offense will rely on a big performance from Chase Brown and punishing runs from Josh McCray.

This game won’t be a work of art – though maybe the work of an Art? – but how many Illini games have you watched over the past 15 years that made you say “wow,” anyway? A win is a win, and Illinois will need this one to help its bowl aspirations.

Thumpasaurus: Illinois 17 - Wyoming 3:

I have no idea where yards are going to come from for the Cowboys. Illinois has some production to replace on defense, but Wyoming has lost their biggest offensive weapon in star back Xazavien Valladay as well as both of the quarterbacks who played meaningful minutes for them. To be quite honest, I’m a bit puzzled by Craig Bohl’s lack of success in Wyoming. I guess whatever he did at North Dakota State to build that program doesn’t translate to a higher level of recruiting? Even if Wyoming could throw the ball (having also lost their leading receiver), they wouldn’t want to. They want to ground and pound and control the clock. I think we’re better at it.

That being said, our offensive output ought to be limited because if Wyoming’s offense is as impotent as I predict it to be here, the Illini offense should be able to grind out the game. There’s no need to open the playbook too much if we can get consistent yardage running the ball. I expect us to play our cards close to the chest to avoid putting too much of our offensive strategy on film for Indiana. That’s a very important game for us.

If I could offer one betting tip here? Hammer the under.