The Minnesota Gophers are the early leaders in the Big Ten West, but are they a good bet when they face the Illinois Illini? They just barely snuck by Purdue last week, and couldn't cover the spread.
Gophers-Illini Betting Odds
Most bookmakers opened Minnesota as a 6.5-point favorites on College Football odds over Illinois, and by Tuesday many shops had bumped the Gophers to -7. Those who think the Illini might pull the upset could get a price of +225 on the moneyline at 5Dimes.
Gophers-Illini: The Situation
With 15 starters back from a team that went 8-5 last year Minnesota went off this season getting 75/1 to win the Big Ten championship. After a 6-1 start (4-3 ATS), including a 3-0 start in the Big Ten, those odds have been cut to right around 30/1 on the college football futures market.
The Gophers opened this season with wins over Eastern Illinois and Middle Tennessee, but then lost at TCU 30-7 as 17-point dogs. That loss doesn't look too bad now, considering the Horned Frogs are currently ranked No. 10 in the nation.
Minnesota then defeated San Jose State 24-7, then began Big Ten play with a 30-14 victory at Michigan, winning as a 10-point dog. The Gophers followed that up with a 24-17 win over Northwestern, covering as three-point favorites.
Last week Minnesota overcame an 11-point third-quarter deficit to beat Purdue 39-38, although it couldn't cover as 12-point home chalk. The Gophers got outgained by the Boilers 451-450 and outrushed 298-285.
With 14 starters back from a 4-8 team of last season the Illini went off this season as 150/1 shots to win the Big Ten, with a wins OVER/UNDER of five. Illinois is not going to win the Big Ten, but it still has a shot at playing OVER its total and going to a bowl.
The Illini started off this season with wins over Youngstown State and Western Kentucky, then lost at Washington 44-19, missing the cover as 13-point underdogs. Illinois then closed out the non-conference part of its schedule with a 42-35 win over Texas State.
UI began its Big Ten slate with a 45-14 loss at Nebraska, whiffing on the cover as a 21-point dog. The Illini then lost at home to Purdue 38-27, coming up totally empty as 10-point favorites. And two weeks ago Illinois lost at Wisconsin 38-28, but covered as a 26-point dog. The Illini trailed the Badgers 7-0, grabbed a 14-7 lead, allowed Wisconsin to score the next 31 points, but scored the last two touchdowns to secure the cover.
Illinois got outrushed by the Badgers 401-153, and has been outrushed in its three Big Ten games by an average of 304 yards.
Gophers-Illini Recent History
Minnesota has beaten Illinois three times in a row, covering each time, most recently in a 17-3 decision as a three-point favorite also in Champaign two years ago. These teams didn't meet last year.
Gophers-Illini Betting Trends
Going back to the middle of last season Minnesota is 10-4 both SU and ATS in its last 14 games.
Illinois is 5-3 ATS as a home dog in two-plus seasons under Coach Beckman.
Illinois is without QB Wes Lunt (13/3 TD/INT ratio), who suffered a broken leg three weeks ago. In his place senior Reilly O'Toole and sophomore Aaron Bailey combined to complete 14 of 24 passes for 135 yards against Wisconsin, and ran for 104 yards. O'Toole also subbed for Hunt in the Nebraska game, going 17/38 passing for 261 yards but with three interceptions.
Gophers-Illini Free Pick
We like what Coach Kill has done at Minnesota, especially the way his team runs the ball, with two-time thousand-yard rusher David Cobb, this year to the tune of 222 yards per game. And Illinois has given us very little reason to consider backing it financially; getting outrushed by 300 yards is not conducive to winning games or covering spreads. So we'll go with Minnesota for our free College Football pick.
Free College Football Pick: Minnesota at -6.5 at The Greek