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OTB Staff Predictions For Illinois At Rutgers

NCAA Football: Iowa at Rutgers Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Cancro: Okay, everybody account for their buddy? You can all come out of the bunker now. It’s safe. Illinois comes to Piscataway for our Homecoming; everyone loves being somebody else’s Homecoming opponent. They just were beaten at home, in OT, by the consensus worst team in the Big Ten. So, the Illini are primed to do some damage. And they may, but not enough. No, we are in a culture shift at Rutgers. Remember that, how Ash was looking to change the culture around here? Well, I believe he has. He’s got players who know what it takes to win, to be resilient, to fight back. Yeah, I know, this is all blah, blah, blah. We will play a couple of QBs - likely Laviano and Odin - who show competence, we get the OL to tighten up and open holes, we get the RBs to run hard and gain bunches of yards. Which allows the suddenly shaky defense to hold its own. Blah, blah, blah. Rutgers 28 Illinois 13

Jim Hoffman: Last week, sometime in the middle of a rainy second quarter, Rutgers was down 29-0, fights are breaking out in the stands around us, and the person sitting next to me turned and with rain dripping off her nose, asked plaintively, “What the hell am I doing here?” I absolutely sympathized. However, that was then, this is now. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of Rutgers’ death have been greatly exaggerated. On a crisp sunny fall afternoon, the Scarlet Knights are going to demonstrate that while nowhere near an elite team like three of their opponents have been this season, they are far from the corpse they looked like against Ohio State and Michigan. I expect to see a different team this Saturday against Illinois. We have a strong running back corps who will be able to move the ball against an Illini that has given up almost 6 yards per play, and between Robert Martin, Josh Hicks, Justin Goodwin, and true freshman Trey Sneed, they have a strong group of runners. Expect a lot of “on the ground” action that will open up the slant passes that have not been able to develop against the Buckeyes and Wolverines. I am sure Rutgers will pull this one out with a W. Rutgers 27- Illinois 17

Matthew Pisani: The past two weeks have been terrible for everyone involved. Now Rutgers has a chance to give the fan base the hope and faith they had coming into this season. It is homecoming and a lot of alumni are sure to show up to see Lovie Smith and this team gets things back on track. Illinois gives up a lot of rush yards so I am looking for Robert Martin and the backfield to have big days to get back in the flow of things. I also see Laviano having a decent game, definitely throwing better than 4 completions for 39 yards (took him two games to amass those numbers). I have a good feeling about this game for some reason, maybe it is because I am going back to see this team up close and personal this weekend or it is that I know this team is not that bad and it will pick things back up. Either way I look for a victory from the Scarlet Knights Saturday. Rutgers 24 Illinois 17

Dave White: And, 'lo, Saturday I make my triumphant return to High Point Solutions Stadium--the first time since the Louisville debacle of 2012--to take in the grand tradition known as Scarlet Knights pigskin battle. Or football. I don't know... is there a shot clock involved? But I digress. Illinois is not good. Rutgers is not good. It's homecoming. After two straight blowout disasters, Chris Ash and his squad need to show something in a winnable game. I say the offensive line comes through, the defense steps up and everyone goes home happy after a nailbiter. Rutgers 27 Illinois 24

Griffin Whitmer: This game eerily reminds me of the Maryland game last year. I don’t expect a big crowd or a lot of excitement surrounding this game. I actually expect a really good game, but not a lot of people will witness it. I think that Illinois will do very well on offense with all of the injuries to the Rutgers linebackers and they will be able to run the ball well. Illinois’ biggest strength is their defensive line and they will give the Rutgers offensive line fits. Nothing I have seen from Rutgers in the past 3 weeks tells me they can win this game. I really hope I’m wrong, but you all have to understand where I’m coming from. Illinois 34 Rutgers 28.

Scott Logan: After the last two weeks, it's hard to be optimistic about this team. But damn it, I will try. Yes, being outscored 136-0 over the last two games is all kinds of horrible, at least it happened against two of the best teams in college football. Illinois is not Ohio State or Michigan. And if there's any winnable game left on the schedule, it's this one. So here's my optimism: I expect Rutgers to score points, and I don't expect them to give up 58 or 78 (or 98, if you're one for numerical patterns). However, regardless of who the opponents were, this team was a flaming heap of flabbergasting incompetence in the last two games, and I just can't logically expect Rutgers to bounce back from those losses. As crazy as it sounds, that might be Coach Ash's biggest test yet. Hoping for the best but bracing for the worst. Illinois 20 Rutgers 10

Aaron Breitman: Rutgers enters this game beat up, both mentally after the past two blowout losses, and physically, as the defense in particular has multiple key players battling injuries. However, the saying goes that the most dangerous type of animal is a wounded one. Illinois will try and run it down the defense’s throat and Rutgers needs to respond. The seniors know this game is crucial and I expect captains Darius Hamilton and Julian Pinnix-Odrick to step up and will this team to victory. On the flip side, I am optimistic OC Drew Mehringer shows some more creativity on offense this week and gets the ball into the hands of Jawuan Harris and Robert Martin. A dark horse player of the game candidate for me is kicker David Bonagura. He is going to need to make at least one big kick tomorrow, possibly more. Rebuilding is tough and the reality is certain steps have to be made along the way to respectability. Beating Illinois is a necessary step, both in building confidence for this team and calming the outcry about what the rest of the world thinks about Rutgers football. We all need this win tomorrow and it’s on the leaders of this team to deliver. I believe they will in what will likely be a sloppy and bit wacky of a game that leaves the red team on their way up stream. Rutgers 23 Illinois 19

Andy Egan: The Illini are just what the doctor ordered -- a conference team without a win against an FBS program, coming off a defeat to Purdue. The team’s going forward look a lot more like Iowa (or worse) than they do Ohio State, Michigan and Washington. Rutgers rolls after two very frustrating weeks. Do you know who lead the B1G in rushing after 4 weeks? Robert Martin. Recent weeks notwithstanding, he hasn’t forgotten how to do that. Martin goes for 150 and a TD, our QBs (whoever they are) run for another 100 and 2 TDs, and we add a passing TD as gravy. Rutgers 31, Illinois 17.