Illinois (2-7, 0-6 Big Ten) hasn’t won a game since beating Western Kentucky, 20-7, on Sept. 9. The week before, the Fighting Illini secured a 3-point home win over Ball State in their season opener. But since then, Illinois has ended up on the losing side of every game its played. Saturday’s game provides the Fighting Illini with perhaps their best chance to earn a league victory.
Indiana (3-6, 0-6) sits in last place in the Big Ten East division. The Hoosiers have trudged through a difficult conference schedule thus far, losing to ranked teams such as Ohio State, Penn State Michigan State and Michigan.
Illinois-Indiana football TV channel, time, live stream
Illinois and Indiana will kick off at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday, Nov. 11.
Time: Noon, ET
Date: November 11, 2017.
Location: Champaign, Illinois
TV channel: Big Ten Network
Live stream: BTN2Go.com
Illinois-Indiana football picks, odds
Despite being the home team, Illinois is currently a 9-point underdog, according to MyBookie, for Saturday afternoon’s contest with Indiana. The over/under for this game is 49 points.
Illinois-Indiana preview, keys to the game
The main question Illinois will have to answer is if it will be able to score against Indian’s formidable defense, which ranks 39th in the country in total yards allowed and gives up about 349 yards per game.
Illinois enters the game as one of the worst offenses in the FBS. The Fighting Illini average 16.7 points— the sixth-worst mark in Division I-A — and manages to gain just over 300 yards per game.
While junior quarterback Chayce Crouch has earned some time under center, Illinois’ main signal caller has been sophomore Jeff George Jr. He’s played in 7 of the past 8 contests. He’s produced mediocre numbers since earning the job, including a 52.3 percent completion percentage and 8 interceptions compared to 5 touchdowns.
In a 24-17 loss at Minnesota on Oct. 21 — the closest the Fighting Illini have come to earning a Big Ten victory — George had one of his better games. The 6-foot-3 Indianapolis native completed 18 of his 23 passes, threw one touchdown and did not throw an interception. Still, Minnesota ran for 333 yards to pick up the win.
On the ground, freshman Mike Epstein has been the top option. Fellow freshman Ra’Von Booker leads the team with 67 rushes and 4 touchdowns but is gaining a measly 3 yards per push. Epstein’s average yards per carry (6.1) is double that, meaning the Fighting Illini will likely rely on him for explosive runs against the Hoosiers.
Wide receivers Ricky Smalling, Malik Turner and Mike Dudek each have at least 20 catches, with Smalling leading the team with 415 receiving yards. The trio has combined for 3 touchdowns.
On defense, the Fighting Illini will be challenged with containing quarterback Richard Lagow, who has thrown for 1,038 yards and 8 touchdowns. In a 45-17 loss Wisconsin last weekend, he completed 20 of his 34 passes for 226 yards to go along with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
He’ll likely be looking to wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr., one of the Hoosiers’ top producers this season. He has 662 yards and 6 touchdowns already.
Stopping those two players will likely be Illinois junior linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips, who has a team-high 65 total tackles this season. Defensive backs Stanley Green and Bennett Williams are the other Fighting Illini players with at least 50 tackles. Bennett, a freshman, also leads the team with 2 interceptions.
After Indiana, Illinois travels to Columbus, Ohio, for a date with the No. 13 Buckeyes. The Fighting Illini have played three games against ranked opponents this season — USF, Iowa and Wisconsin — and have lost each of them. They were outscored, 116-50, in those games.
After playing the Buckeyes, Illinois closes out the season with a home contest against Northwestern.
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