The Fighting Illini are a clear cut 2 touchdwon favorite at home in the season opener against the Kent State Golden Flashes, who went 2-9 last season. See who we like in this matchup.
Kickoff is set for Friday September 4th at 9:00 p.m. ET at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois. 5Dimes lists the Fighting Iillini as a legitimate 14-point bettting favorite and the college football odds makers aren't expecting much defense, especially from Kent State as the total is 52.
Good teams usually are served cupcakes at the beginning of the season, but at 6 wins last year, I wouldn't consider Illinois a good team. They have a lot to prove this season, especially without Dudek for half of it, and they can turn a corner, so to speak with a solid showing against a weak Golden Flashes defense which allowed 430.3 yards per game last season.
Kent State Is Weak Up Front
The only thing that can be said in Kent State's favor is that they have almost all of their defensive leaders returning and that means one more year of experience.
The Fighting Illini will look to use Ferguson as much as possible as the Golden Flashes excel as the safety position. Free safety Nate Holley recorded the most tacklers (137) in almost 20 years by a Kent State player and earned First Team All Conference honors in the MAC and senior, Jordan Italiano was also a force with 96 tackles and 3 interceptions.
I mentioned the senior a lot because the Fighting Illini will be using him all game long with the loss of Mike Dudek. Not only is Ferguson, who rushed for a 735 yards and 8 touchdowns at 5 yards per carry last season, but he also has a little Matt Forte in him in that he's a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield and that will take a lot of pressure off of quarterback,
West Lunt threw for 1763 yards, 14 TD and 3 INT in an abbreviated amount of time is a very capable quarterback and wins the quarterback battle in this game quite easily for Illinois.. Look for a huge game out of Ferguson, who might have NFL aspirations, and Lunt will use him a lot along with wide receiver, Geronimo Allison.
Big Play Potential
Allison caught for nearly 600 yards last season to go along with 5 TD's, but most of that production came in a game against Washington in which he caught for 160 yards and 2 TD's and against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in which he caught for 118 yards and 1 TD. Allison likes to go long and will definitelty get the opportunity in the 1st half of the season, but he must be more consistent on a game to game basis. Expect Lunt to also look more Allison's way and we should see him be a factor in this game.
Durham will be looking to pick up where he left off in 2013 when he rushed for over 700 yards, but injuries had sidelined him for the entire year last season and Kent State needs the production of this 250 pound bruiser. Let's remember, this is a running back that teamed up with Dri Archer in 2012 and ran for 1316 yards and 14 TD. Quarterback Colin Reardon is mistake prone and if Durham can regain his old form, this can be a ball game.
Look for the Golden Flashes to bounce back from a poor year last season and make this a close game. With Durham back in the lineup, the complexion of this matchup changes, so take Kent State with your college football picks.
College Football Pick: Kent State +14 at 5Dimes