Minnesota vs. Illinois Pick – CFB Week 9

The Big 10 is one of the most competitive conferences in the country, and while naysayers may attribute that to a lack of quality teams, the unpredictability of play from week-to-week makes for some attractive betting opportunities. One such opportunity exists for the Saturday afternoon (12:00pm ET) meeting between the Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-1) and the University of Illinois Fighting Illini (3-4) at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, IL. The Golden Gophers come into the contest after a nail-biter 39-38 win at home over Purdue last week, and have won 4 straight including a 30-14 upset win over Michigan in Ann Arbor in week 5 to open conference play. Illinois had a bye last week, and lost 38-28 at Wisconsin in their last action two weeks ago. The Illini are 0-3 in Big 10 play having lost at Nebraska (45-14) and at home to Purdue (38-27).

The Golden Gophers rank 71st among FBS teams in scoring offense with 28.7 points per game and 109th in total offense with 348.7 yards per game. The Golden Gophers are a running team, and they average 222.4 YPG on the ground to rank 25th nationally in rushing offense. Minnesota ranks 30th nationally in scoring defense with 21.4 PPG allowed and 49th in total defense with 364.3 YPG allowed.

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Illinois ranks 74th among FBS teams in scoring offense with 28.6 PPG and 66th in total offense with 408.7 YPG. Starting quarterback Wes Lunt is still out with a broken leg, and Coach Tim Beckman is expected to play both of his backups, senior Riley O’Toole and sophomore Aaron Bailey against Minnesota. Neither has lit up the scoreboard so far this season, O’Toole has thrown for 524 yards with 3 TDs and 4 INTs, while Bailey saw his first action against Wisconsin and finished 2 for 5 for 39 yards with 1 INT. Bailey is the better runner of the two, and he had 75 yards rushing and a TD against the Badgers. Illinois ranks 109th nationally in scoring defense with 35.9 PPG allowed and 115th in total defense with 484.6 YPG allowed.

Minnesota vs. Illinois Spread, Line and Betting Odds:


Minnesota Golden Gophers -5.5

@Illinois Fighting Illini +5.5

Game Total:

Over 55.5 (-110)

Under 55.5 (-110)

Betting odds taken from

Minnesota vs. Illinois Pick:

The Golden Gophers have had a great deal of success running the ball this season, and the Illinois defense has had no answers against the run this season rankling 122nd nationally with 271.1 YPG allowed. Nebraska and Wisconsin ran for 458 yards (6.5 YPC) and 401 yards respectively and barely needed to take to the air to diversify their attack. Illinois looks comparatively strong against the pass (40th nationally, 213.4 YPG), but that is due to the fact that the majority of their opponents have not been required to throw the ball to move it up and down the field on Illinois.

The Illini have yet to defeat a power conference opponent this season, and Beckman has a 9-22 record in two-plus seasons at the helm and a woeful 1-18 record in Big 10 play. This does not figure to be the week that he is able to right the ship, especially considering he is resorting to a quarterback rotation with few other options to shake up his team and save his job. Illinois is not able to run the ball on offense; ranking 114th among FBS teams with 104.1 YPG, therefore their quarterbacks must literally shoulder the load. That is bad news when you do not have a reliable option under center, Minnesota should be able to run at will on Illinois an control the tempo of the game. Take the Golden Gophers and give the points here.

PICK– Minnesota -5.5