Meanwhile, Virginia cruised to a 34-17 victory over Richmond. Virginia couldn’t cover a 21.5-point spread but took it easy on Richmond in the second half, scoring no points over the final 20 minutes.
Now, Virginia travels to Champaign for the Cavaliers’ biggest non-conference showdown this season. Can Virginia compete with the Big Ten? Will Illinois bounce back from a tough loss?
Let’s break it down. Read on for our Virginia Cavaliers vs Illinois Fighting Illini odds, picks, and predictions.
Virginia Cavaliers vs Illinois Fighting Illini
The Cavaliers opened as five-point underdogs, but the line has been bet down to +4. Over 50% of the tickets and 75% of the handle are on Virginia at the time of writing, so the line could continue to fall.
Projection systems are high on Virginia, too. Bill Connelly’s SP+ ratings make Virginia a two-point favorite, for example.
The over has taken the sharp money, and that makes sense considering the Cavaliers’ explosive roster. But I personally project the total closer to 52 than 57, so this may be a pass for me.
Virginia Cavaliers vs Illinois Fighting Illini Prediction & Pick
Virginia returns just four starters, but some of the most important pieces.
Most importantly, Brennan Armstrong is back. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and carved up Richmond, going 21-for-33 with 250 yards and two scores. And don’t forget how dangerous he can be with his legs, having rushed for 100 yards against Richmond in the season opener.
The Virginia offensive line is an issue, but less of a concern considering Armstrong’s athletic ability.
I’m looking for Armstrong to have a huge game. He threw for over 400 yards and five scores in a dominant Virginia victory over Illinois last season.
Illinois lost two starters on the defensive line in the offseason and only two starters from the 2021 secondary return. Conner Bazelak lit them up for 330 yards last season. That’s a bad look.
I don’t have faith in Illinois quarterback Tommy DeVito and I have no faith in the Bret Bielema system. I’m betting Virginia with the points and on the ML.
Virginia Cavaliers vs Illinois Fighting Illini Key Matchups
Key Matchup No. 1: Illinois Defensive Line vs Virginia Offensive Line
The Illini have to wake up in the front seven if they expect to compete in the Big Ten. They currently rank outside the top-65 in Rushing Success Rate allowed, Havoc, and Defensive Line yards. They fumbled around with Wyoming and Indiana.
If Bielema needs a get-right spot for the defensive line, this is it. The Cavaliers return just two career FBS starts on the offensive line and have two FCS transfers starting immediately. There are also two redshirt freshmen on the line.
If Illinois gets into a shootout with Armstrong because the defensive line is unable to get a push, DeVito and the Illini will lose. This matchup is the entire game.