Illinois +13.5 vs. Washington for College Football Picks

Darin Zank

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 9:29 PM UTC

Wednesday, Sep. 10, 2014 9:29 PM UTC

The Illini, off to a 2-0 start, will try to help enhance the Big Ten's reputation when they head West to run with U-Dub's Huskies Saturday afternoon in Seattle (4 pm ET, Fox). Here's our breakdown of this Pac-12/Big Ten match-up, with a free college football pick thrown in at the end.

The Betting Odds
As of mid-week most of the college football odds market was chalking Washington at -13.5 over Illinois, with a total of 64.5. Those who think an upset might be possible in this spot could find the Illini getting upwards of +415 on the money line at some online sportsbooks.

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Game Set-Up
U-Dub began the Coach Petersen era with a 17-16 win at Hawaii, then came home and held off FCS Eastern Washington 59-52. But the Huskies could not cover the spread as 17-point favorites over the Rainbows, nor as 17-point chalk over the Eagles.

Washington got out-gained by Hawaii 424-336, out-rushed 217-154 and held the ball for less than 26 minutes. No wonder they didn't cover. And while the Huskies led Eastern Washington 21-0 midway through the first quarter, they allowed the Eagles to come all the way back and take a 45-44 lead into the fourth quarter. In the end U-Dub had allowed 573 yards of offense to an FCS team.

Washington returned 14 starters from a team that went 9-4 last year. Seven starters were back on offense, including the entire offensive line. But they had to replace their starting quarterback and last year's leading rusher and receiver. And seven starters came back on defense, including the entire front four, but only one in the secondary.

The Huskies have started two different quarterbacks in their two games; they look like they'll go with sophomore Cyler Miles, who accounted for four touchdowns last week, this Saturday.

Illinois began its third season under Coach Beckman with an underwhelming 28-17 victory over FCS Youngstown State. The Illini got out-gained by the Penguins 380-363, out-rushed 203-78 and lost the time-of-possession battle by a 40/20 margin. That's why they didn't cover the spread as 17-point favorites.

Illinois did, however, get a nice debut from QB Wes Lunt, the transfer from Oklahoma State, who went 24/38 passing for 285 yards and four scores, with zero interceptions.

Last week the Illini rallied to beat Western Kentucky 42-34, covering as four-point chalk. Illinois trailed early 17-7, and 27-21 going into the fourth quarter, but put the game away with three straight scores. The Illini out-gained the Hilltoppers 522-400, and held the ball for 35 minutes, but again had trouble with the run game, gaining just 66 yards on 33 carries. Lunt, though, threw for 456 yards and three scores, and UI scored twice on defense.

Illinois returned 14 starters from a team that went 4-8 last year. Six starters were back on offense, including leading rusher Josh Ferguson and four along the offensive line. And eight starters were back on defense, including two up front, three at LB and three in the secondary.


When Last They Met
These teams just met last September in Chicago, a 34-24 Washington victory but an Illini cover as 10.5-point dogs. The Huskies out-gained Illinois 615-327, but a couple of guys who did a lot of damage that day, QB Keith Price and RB Bishop Sankey, are now gone.


Illini-Huskies Betting Trends

The Illini are just 3-5 ATS as double-digit dogs over the last two-plus seasons.

Washington is just 2-6 ATS the last eight times it's been listed as double-digit chalk.


Free NCAAF Pick
College teams often make big strides in their third season under new coaching regimes, and Illinois is in its third season under Beckman. This game might go a long way toward discerning whether the Illini are progressing. Illinois stayed within 10 points of Washington last year, and with Lunt it should be able to do something similar Saturday. So we'll go with the Illini, at the +13.5 offered at  5dimes, for our free college football pick in this spot.

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