The Illinois Fighting Illini head into 2022-23 season with ambition to succeed
Bret Bielema enters his second season as the head coach of the Illinois Fighting Illini, looking to build on what was somewhat of a successful first year. In the NCAA it’s hard to come in as a first year coach and be great, but the Illini pulled off a few big upsets.
The program continues its search of a winning season, the last being 10 years ago.
The Illini started 1-4 out of the gate, but eventually made a decent turnaround mid-season as they ended up 5-7 in 2021. The highlight of the year was the upset in Happy Valley, as they knocked off the number seven team in the country, Penn State. An ugly win, but a program shifting win nonetheless. The game was played for NINE overtimes, making it the longest game in CFB history. It was hard on the eyes.
They also picked up a nice win in Minnesota, who was then ranked 20th. If it wasn’t for a few bad losses early on, the Illini might have been .500 or even above. There may not be a National Championship on the horizon, but it’s a sizable step in the right direction.
#illini Bret Bielema: "There hasn't been a time [as a head coach] that I've been this excited."
Feels this group and season could be special.
— Jeremy Werner (@JWerner247) August 22, 2022
An intriguing quarterback battle heading into Week 1
The University of Illinois Fighting Illini football program has one of the more interesting quarterback battles early on. This competition starts with a senior transfer from Syracuse, Tommy DeVito.
DeVito is the odds favorite, but Coach Bielema has been pretty wishy washy to this point about who will start. He passed for 3,866 yards, 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions over four seasons for the Orange. Tommy’s career to this point has been riddled with injury, but if he can stay healthy he has the potential for a good year. Syracuse had a brutal offensive line, so hopefully this new opportunity will allow DeVito to shine. New offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. did mention both QB’s have been given equal opportunity, but DeVito is taking a majority of the first team reps.
On the other side, junior Artur Sitkowski is making his own case to be starter for the Illinois Fighting Illini. The Rutgers transfer proved to be very serviceable last season, as he led the team to a massive upset against Penn State. He went on to miss the last four games of the season due to injury. He was also named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week following 12-of-15 passing for 124 yards and two touchdowns against Nebraska. Sitkowski is more of a stand up, pocket passer, opposed to the more athletic DeVito.
ARTUR SITKOWSKI WITH A SEED 🚀
— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 28, 2021
My favorite bets: Illinois Fighting Illini vs Wyoming Cowboys
Prediction 1: Illinois -11 (-110 on DraftKings, Bovada)
If you can find them at -10.5, it’s definitely a safer play, but I do love this line. No matter who is under center for Illinois, they will be handing the ball off to a stud at running back. Junior Chase Brown had a monster sophomore season, and looks to be a major force in 2022. Brown’s 223 rushing yards at Penn State were the most ever by an opponent at Beaver Stadium, and the fourth-most ever against Penn State. He should be able to run all over the young Wyoming defense.
The Wyoming Cowboys have always been a tough out in the Mountain West. Last year they finished 7-6, however all 6 of their losses came in conference play. The Pokes were hit hard by the transfer portal, losing its leading rusher Xazavian Vallada, and leading receiver Isaiah Neyor. Wyoming lost both it’s top QB options as well, meaning it’s likely new transfer Andrew Peasley will get the nod. This game will be a battle in the trenches, and I think that’s a battle Illinois wins.
I believe Illinois is the better, older team and should roll at home.
Prediction 2: Under 44 points (-110 on DraftKings, Bovada)
The Illinois Fighting Illini didn’t score much last year. They failed to score more than 20 points in seven of the last ten games in 2021. A new offensive scheme could change this, but don’t look for this team to drop 35-40 points. They rely on the run and will look to slow the game down, even more so with the current QB situation. Chase Brown could have a huge game.
Like I mentioned above, Wyoming has too many new faces to succeed early on this year. They’re also a team who loves the ground and pound approach, meaning this game is almost certainly going to be low scoring. 44 looks low, but don’t fall victim to the over. They’re well coached but I believe they will struggle to score this weekend.
I’m not sure which bet I like more! The under almost seems like a lock.
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