Illinois Fighting Illini (2-0 SU, 1-1-0 PS, 0-2-0 O/U) vs South Florida Bulls (2-0 SU, 0-2-0 PS, 0-2-0 O/U)
When: 7:00 PM EDT, Friday, September 15, 2017
Where: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida
Lines: South Florida -17
Friday night CFB action and the Big 10 Conference will duke it out with the American Athletic Conference as the Illinois Fighting Illini take on the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Illini come in off a very nice 20-7 win over Western Kentucky, while the Bulls are off a closer than expected 31-17 win over Stony Brook. This will be the first ever meeting between these teams.
Defense Stands Tall In Win Over Hilltoppers
The numbers are astounding: 523.1 ypg and 45.5 ppg. That is what the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers put up last year as they were the top scoring team in the nation. 405 ypg and 31.9 ppg. That is what the Illini allowed last year. The Hilltoppers should have a good offensive showing in that game, right? Not so fast my friend. The Illini look like they have an improved defense, with six starters back and they showed it in their 20-7 win over the Hilltoppers on Saturday. In the game, the Illini allowed just 255 yards overall, including just 17 yards on the ground to a team that was one of the most explosive in the Nation last year. They will really need their defense to play well this year as their offense is not that good. In the win over WKU, they totaled just 301 yards, but they did have 194 yards on the ground. Leading their attack in the game was Mike Epstein, who ran for 111 yards on 21 carries. He didn’t have a TD in the game, but still had a good showing and helped the team keep that strong WKU offense on the sidelines. Chayce Crouch hit just 14 of 25 passes for 107 yards and an INT, but he helped out with his legs as he ran for 144 yards and a TD. The other TD in the game for the Illini came on a Julian Jones 10 yard INT return. This defense now gets another big test as the Bulls were 4th in the nation in scoring and 11th in total yards last year.
The Illini have been a poor offensive team in the early going as they come in ranked 123rd in the nation in total offense (258.5 ypg), 120th in passing (126 ypg), 91st in rushing (132.5 ypg) and 101st in scoring at 22.0 ppg. On defense, they have been very solid so far as they come in ranked 45th in total yards allowed (315.0 ypg), 74th against the pass (221.0 ypg) and 31st vs the run (94.0 ypg), while allowing just 14.0 ppg, which is 28th in the land.
Bulls Struggle Some With Stony Brook
The South Florida Bulls won their first game by 20 over San Jose State on the road and then they came home the next week to face FCS foe Stony Brook and they were 35 point favorites in the game. Easy win, right? Well, no. The Bulls won the game by just 14 and they actually trailed 10-7 at the half. This is not a game that should have been that close and while their defense played well in the game, it was their offense that held them back. They scored 31 points in the game, but on just 339 yards of total offense. Last year they put up 511.5 ypg and had 548 yards of total offense in their win over the Spartans to start the year, but the offense just failed to show up for this one. QB Quinton Flowers didn’t have a great game as he hit 19 of 32 passes for 186 yards with two TDs and an INT. He did run for 67 yards to lead the team, while Darius Tice had two rushing TDs on 57 yards rushing. The defense really had a good game as they allowed the Sea Wolves just 229 yards of total offense, including just 137 yards through the air and they also picked off a couple of passes. It had to be a frustrating game for the Bulls on offense and now they will be facing an Illinois defense that really looked good in their win over Western Kentucky last week.
On offense, the Bulls have been rather average so far as they come in ranked 52nd in the nation in total offense (443.5 ypg), 83rd in passing (209.5 ypg), 31st in rushing (234.0 ypg) and 44th in scoring at 36.5 ppg. On defense, they come in ranked 42nd in total yards allowed (308.0 ypg), 63rd against the pass (207.5 ypg) and 37th vs the run (100.5 ypg), while allowing 19.5 ppg, which is 50th in the nation.
- 8-18 ATS in their last 26 road games
- 7-20 ATS in their last 27 games following an ATS win
South Florida is:
- 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 home games
- 12-5-1 ATS in their last 18 games on grass
The Illini have will not be a very good team this year, but they did have a very good showing against Western Kentucky, especially on defense. The Bulls had a lackluster game on offense last week, but this was one of the best offensive teams in the nation last year and they still have Quinton Flowers at QB, who is one of the more dynamic QBs in the nation. He had a rather bad game two weeks ago against Stony Brook, but I look for him to have a much better showing here, especially after a week off. I do not see the Illini doing what they did against the Hilltoppers in this one. On the other side, the Illini have no offense at all and the Bulls have looked solid on that side of the ball. The Illini just won’t come up with nearly enough points to keep this one close. Look for the Bulls to win by at least 21.