Illinois Football returns after a bye week with a home matchup against the Chattanooga Mocs. On a rare Thursday night game, this seems like the perfect opportunity for a trap game with the Wisconsin game looming. Do the Illini pull it out? Our writers give their predictions below:
Matt Rejc: Illinois 31 - Chattanooga 28
It’s important to remember that FCS teams will always show up against P5 teams. To them, this is their one chance this year to make a splash on ESPN and in the national media. And Chattanooga is certainly one of the better FCS teams that the Illini have played in recent years. Chattanooga defensive lineman Devonnsha Maxwell has real talent, and he could slow down the Illini rushing attack if he’s allowed to. But much like the recent Illini matchup against the Mocs on the hardwood, I see Illinois’ talent and conditioning overcoming Chattanooga late in the game for a comeback victory.
Brandt Dolce: Illinois 41 - Chattanooga 17
Chase Brown will be much too much for UTC to handle. If sophomore running back Josh McCray comes back healthy, don’t be surprised to see both backs surpass the century mark. Illinois gets a defensive touchdown on a pick six. Tommy Devito will be largely error free, and utilize the play action passing attack off of the success of the running backs. The defense will finally give up a TD at the crib in 2022. No turnovers for the home team, with Illinois getting a care free win courtesy of Ryan Walters’ stingy defense.
Will Charlton: Illinois 35 - Chattanooga 10
Some people look at this game as a trap game that could be very dangerous to the Illini. I personally don’t agree. I think they know they have to take care of business against an FCS opponent before they start up play against Big Ten opponents. The offense has a great first half and I expect the halftime score to be 28-7 or 21-7. Because of a great first half where the Illini put the game away early, they have a more conservative second half where they run the ball the whole time essentially. Chase Brown rushes for over 175 yards, DeVito makes a handful of key throws, and the defense will force a couple turnovers while bottling up this Moc offense. ILL.
Ben Pekay: Illinois 38 - Chattanooga 10
While I do believe this is a bit of a trap game as the Illini could be looking ahead to Wisconsin, I believe this Illinois team is different. The Illini need to slow down Running Back Ailym Ford who has had success against P5 opponents including rushing for 128 yards against Kentucky last year. Chase Brown will dominate this game and handle the majority of the Illini offense. The Illini cannot have costly turnovers and need to score everytime they are in the red zone. The Illini should take a lead around the 2nd quarter and cruise to a win against Chattanooga.
Pleas Honeywood: Illinois 27 - Chattanooga 14
This game may not be the blowout it could/should be. The Illini have a big game coming up at Camp Randall on October 1. It’s kind of a big deal to the big guy in the big chair. So this sets up to be a classic trap game. The Illini should still have too much talent for Chattanooga to overcome. Ryan Walters’ defense may bend more than expected, but is unlikely to break. I see this as a heavy dose of Chase Brown game (as every Illinois game should be). I think DeVito hits a shot deep to send the fans home happy with an Illini win. This could be a grind the clock down bowling shoe ugly win, but it should still be a win.
Kyle Tausk: Illinois 24 - Chattanooga 14
I don’t expect this one to be a blowout. We’ve already seen a handful of FCS teams show up and compete, even beat FBS opponents early in the college football season. The Mocs are a Top 10 team in FCS and I think they’ll surprise the Illini early before Illinois ultimately pulls away and gets the job done. The physicality and athleticism that Illinois brings this year will just be too much for Chattanooga in the end and Chase Brown should be able to help the Illini control the clock after jumping in front.
Jack Jungmann: Illinois 31 - Chattanooga 3
I’ve been relatively pessimistic on my predictions so far this season. I don’t see any reason why Illinois doesn’t handle the Mocs on Thursday night. No FCS team can handle Chase Brown. You just can’t change my mind on that. Bet Chase Brown’s over again, folks. The revamped Illini defense will be stifling. Illinois has yet to allow a touchdown at Memorial Stadium in the 2022, and that streak sure isn’t ending to an FCS team. Give me the Illini by four scores.