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OTB Staff Predictions: Rutgers at Illinois

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Find out what our contributors are thinking ahead of Saturday’s matchup

NCAA Football: Illinois at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, we almost forgot after yet another tumultuous week at Rutgers, but there is an actual football game being played this weekend. And it’s the best chance the Scarlet Knights have left to pick up a Big Ten victory this season. The current conference losing streak sits at 17. RU are 20 point underdogs heading to face Illinois, who are rolling after consecutive wins over Wisconsin and Purdue. What do we think will happen? Let’s kick things off here.

Danny Burrick: I think this game will be much closer then what the spread is. With Rutgers coming off a win over Liberty that should give the players some confident in knowing that they can win and that they aren’t far off from beating anyone. A key for them to win would be for Johnny Langan to have another great game and Isaiah Pacheco have another great game. Illinois 38, Rutgers 28

Dave White: *crawls out of the dungeon that has been football season* There’s another game? Um. Maybe this will be close, but probably not? Illinois 30 Rutgers 21

Adam Ross: The win over Liberty sure was nice, but it’s back to reality this weekend. While Illinois is by no means a juggernaut, they are coming off of back to back wins, over #6 Wisconsin and on the road to Purdue. Their path to a bowl game rests squarely on their ability to beat us this weekend and Northwestern at the end of the year. They can certainly put up points, and Rutgers has not demonstrated that ability against any team in the conference. Illinois 40 Rutgers 10

Aaron Breitman: I hope Rutgers can run the ball effectively against a not so stout Illinois rush defense. I hope the Scarlet Knights come out of the gate with renewed confidence after last week’s win and make it a battle. I hope the rush defense of RU can prevent big plays and not let Illinois control the game. The issue is I’m not confident with any of these three things actually happening. I think Rutgers will play its best game in Big Ten play this season, but I don’t think it will be enough to win the game. Illinois 35 Rutgers 14

Fred Gaudios: On the “of course this is a Rutgers loss” side of the argument, Rutgers struggled to contain a not-very-good Liberty offense last week, allowing 33 points and over 400 yards of total offense to a team that struggled to beat Maine the week before. We are significant underdogs to Illinois, who shocked the world against Wisconsin on October 19 and followed this performance with a formidable-looking win at Purdue in the pouring rain. Looking at advanced analytics, Illinois is ranked #59 in S&P+, in line with teams like Maryland (who destroyed us) and Purdue (who would likely do the same, given the chance). Why am I weirdly optimistic? First, I watched the Liberty game closely and thought we looked like a team finding a higher gear on offense, particularly with passing offense, which has been absent all year. Second, Illinois seems to lose a trap game every season and hasn’t yet — why not this one? Third, the RU kids are giving up their blood and sweat for Coach Nunz and I really want to see him end this season with another win (this, realistically, being his best and final chance for one). I try to pick with my head and not my heart, but not this time. Rutgers 23, Illinois 21 on a last second field goal. We play Saturday, we win Saturday.

Are we too negative or simply being realistic? Is Fred already drinking? Let us know your thoughts and your own predictions in the comment section.