The Fighting Illini of Illinois are next up for the Scarlet Knights. These two teams are struggling to find their footing in the competitive Big Ten conference. Both teams are in a rebuilding mode. In college sports, the only way to secure a future is through great recruiting. The only way to get great recruiting is to win. Rutgers desperately needs to win. The key to winning this next game simply is in the numbers. The numbers tells us that the Illini defense is not good and Rutgers can hopefully exploit that advantage.
Illinois has given 40 plus point games twice in this short season. In their 47-23 loss to University of South Florida, they gave up 4 touchdowns through the air. The Illini gave up two additional touchdowns on the ground. In their game against the Iowa Hawkeyes the Illini also gave up 4 touchdowns through the air and one on the ground. The Illini only managed one sack versus Iowa and one tackle for a loss. The numbers show on that night the defense could not compete against what has been an average offense of Iowa. In the Illini’s 28-6 loss to Nebraska, the team let a struggling Tanner Lee, who leads the country in interceptions, have an almost perfect game. Lee tossed 3 touchdowns with a QBR of 94.9. The Cornhuskers quarterback stat line reads of a veteran who picked a part a team that cannot figure out the right defensive formula.
The Illini issues are not exclusive to the defensive side of the ball. The numbers show keeping the ball has been quite the challenge. Illinois has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. That alone spells trouble. Teams aren’t worried about the passing attack because it hasn’t produced a lot points and The Illini have only scored two touchdowns through the air. The offense has only produced eight total touchdowns all season. The passing attack has given the ball away nine times, including three times with newly installed starter Jeff George Jr. Those numbers are reflected in their record. The Illini lack big plays ability. The team has had only three plays over 35 yards. The team numbers show they are the least explosive team in the Big Ten, even less so than the struggling offense of Rutgers.
Illinois is statistically at the bottom of the conference in almost every category. The team is last in touchdowns scored. As complex as football, is it is very simple at the same time. If you don’t score more points than the other team, you lose. Both teams have struggled to score points this season in a major way. No matter who starts at quarterback for Rutgers on Saturday, the Knights will go into this game relying on their strong defensive presence, which is the best unit on either side in this matchup. The defense should be able to attack, force turnovers and pull away with a win. Numbers do not lie. They can paint a picture of what to expect. But the eleven on the field are the artists that are in charge of finishing a masterpiece, which would be a victory in Big Ten play. Rutgers can trace the other teams outline, however the final result depends on their ability and desire on the field.