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Will Illinois beat Virginia? Our writers are split

Our writers don’t see Illinois breezing through this one.

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Illinois hosts the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday at 3 p.m. in Memorial Stadium. This game is arguably the biggest one of the year to this point. This would really be a turning point in the season for both teams. Who gets the win? Some of our writers predict the game below:

Matt Rejc: Illinois 24 - Virginia 21

Last week’s loss against Indiana could’ve (or perhaps should’ve) easily gone the other way as an Illini victory on the road against a conference opponent. I’m going to chalk the turnovers and mistakes of last week up to Illinois’ typical struggles in their first road game of the year. I see the Illini bouncing back in a big way at home this week against UVA. The four turnovers last week were the difference between an Illini rout and a close loss, and I don’t think that volume of turnovers will happen this week. Virginia is a much better team than Indiana, but I also think this year’s Illinois team is better than last year’s squad. Combine that with facing Virginia at home, and I think we have the recipe for a great win over a P5 opponent this week.

Kyle Tausk: Illinois 31 - Virginia 24

This is a much different team from last season’s beatdown. Illinois’ defense saw a complete turnaround following their performance in Charlottesville last season and should be much more well-equipped to handle Brennan Armstrong. Offensively, Barry Lunney has seemed to have found a rhythm and should be able to move the ball against a poor Virginia defense. I expect Chase Brown to continue to build on his potential All-American campaign with a big afternoon against a front that just allowed 170 rushing yards to Richmond in Week 1. The key is going to be cleaning up those coverage breakdowns over the top we saw against Indiana and containing Brennan Armstrong’s legs outside the pocket. I think the Illini will be hungry and ready to go after the heartbreak they suffered Friday night and I bet Coach Bielema has mentioned that 42-14 final a few times in the meeting room this week. Illinois gets it done at home.

Mihir Chavan: Illinois 24 - Virginia 21

My goals for this team are simple. 3 TDs and 1 FG. That is the way this game is won. The defense should be able to handle this team knowing the tenaciousness of our DB’s and safeties. Let’s make a statement at home with a revenge win over the Cavaliers.

Drew Pastorek: Virginia 31 - Illinois 23

It’s hard being an Illini football fan AND having expectations. I’ve predicted this game as an “L” from the beginning and I’m not ready to divert from that pick, even though Vegas seems to like Illinois. UVA is vulnerable defending the run, though, so I’m expecting another terrific game from Chase Brown. The Illini offense is better than last year. The Illini defense is better than last year. But I’m siding with history until proven otherwise – the program’s most recent non-conference victory over a Power Five opponent came against then-22nd-ranked Arizona State in 2011. Brock Osweiler started for the Sun Devils that day. I desperately want Illinois to win this game and salvage their bowl chances, but I can’t assume Illinois will win a game like this until they do. Prove me wrong, Bert. Prove me wrong.

Will Charlton: Illinois 28 - Virginia 21

It’s revenge time. The Illini find a way in this back and forth battle which goes in tied at 21 at the end of the third. A huge drive by the offense in the 4th propels the Illini to a much needed win against Virginia (and some sweet revenge). The defense will not allow as many deep passing plays this week but Virginia will find the end zone a few times — I just expect the Illini to find the end zone once more. Brown has another dominant game on the ground and DeVito will continue to impress us with his play this week. It will also come down to the fact that Armstrong will not look like the greatest quarterback to ever play the game this week (cause he sure did last year against us).

Pleas Honeywood: Virginia 27 - Illinois 20

Virginia’s defense is notoriously putrid against the run. So Chase Brown should have a huge game. The Illini should be able to control the clock and win the time of possession game. But they did those things against Indiana, too. Brennan Armstrong is a better quarterback than either signal caller the Illini have faced thus far. He diced up the Illini secondary last year despite a career-making performance by Kerby Joseph. This game won’t be easy, and Virginia is under the leadership of former Clemson OC Tony Elliott. Maybe the Illini defense pulls one out of the hat and dials up some pressure. But with an injury-weakened receiving corps and an inconsistent offensive line, I don’t know if Tommy DeVito will have the personnel he needs to pull out the home win.

Thumpasaurus: Virginia 35 - Illinois 24

Last week, Illinois lost seven points to the officials on the road and Virginia definitely gained some points at home as the officials turned a blind eye to their tackles hanging on for dear life against Richmond’s edge rushers.

I fully expect both teams to be officiated the same way they were last week. This happens in Champaign and I’ll never understand it. There will be a litany of missed holding calls against Virginia, but I still think we can beat them for a sack. With Brennan Armstrong and most of last year’s receiving corps, this Cavaliers team will probably throw touchdowns on virtually every snap that isn’t a sack. The Illini defense is certainly better than they were playing last year, but I do not trust this secondary after last week.

On the other hand, Virginia’s defensive front got pushed around by Richmond. The Illini O line made Chase Brown work extra hard for his yardage. They’d better play at a higher level here. This is a less stout front seven than Indiana had. I’d be going for it on fourth down early and often to set the tone, keep drives going and limit our opportunities to kick abominable punts like we did last week.

Illinois wins this game by keeping the Virginia offense on the sidelines with long drives and getting a few havoc plays, whether they be turnovers or just drive-killing sacks. This game could very well beat the over/under of 56.

Bill Connelly’s model predicts a 28-27 Virginia victory. My prediction is just hope that Illini fans don’t have to get punched in the gut two weeks in a row

Jack Jungmann: Virginia 24 - Illinois 20

My prediction this week once again has Illinois falling. This program just hasn’t shown me enough in late-game situations to be able to predict them to win a close game. Couple that with the fact that Brennan Armstrong is the stereotypical QB that tears Illinois apart, I don’t see the path for Illinois to win this game. I think it’ll be a close game, Illinois staying within a score for the whole game. In the end, I have Virginia edging Illinois by just 4 points However, Chase Brown will have a massive day. Virginia’s run defense is straight up just not that good. Chase Brown could easily have another 150+ yard game. Bet on Chase Brown’s over, folks.