Illinois vs. Kansas get ready to showdown this Friday at 7:30pm EST in Lawrence as a home game for the Jayhawks. Kansas is currently slated as a -3.5 favorite with -155 odds on the moneyline while the total is set at 57. Read on for more Illinois vs. Kansas best bets and predictions as Illinois looks to bounce back after a rough start.
Illinois Vs. Kansas Prediction & Best Bet
While a win is a win, it was certainly not pretty by any means as the Fighting Illini squeaked out a two-point win against Toledo. Illinois came into the contest asleep at the wheel, going into halftime down 12-7. The offense then woke up in the second half, pulling out the win in uninspiring fashion.
On the bright side, Luke Altmyer looked serviceable under center as he finished the contest throwing for 211 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He also added another 69 yards on the ground, punishing the Toledo linebacking unit for stacking the box against the run-heavy Illini.
While the ground game looked sluggish, they should fare far better against the Jayhawks as their defense is abysmal. The Jayhawks were hardly tested against Missouri State but now must find answers to limiting any sort of production against their first true test for their defense. Not all continuity is good continuity as the Jayhawks ranked near dead last in Def Success Rate and Stuff Rate last season and even allowed Missouri State to move down the field at various points of the contest.
With Altmyer flashing a dual threat ability, this puts added stress to the Jayhawks defense as they already struggle to contain opposing downfield production. By forcing the Kansas linebackers to spy, the Fighting Illini will find themselves with more open windows to throw to on the outside. A huge plus for a unit that ranks near dead last in Pass Explosiveness.
On the other end of the field, this is still an elite Illinois defense that excels at generating pressure in the backfield and smothering opposing wideouts. The pressure from the line will be vital as Jalon Daniels makes his return to captain the Jayhawks. He will most likely not be 100% but will still be a threat to burn the Illini by both his arm and feet.
Illinois Vs. Kansas Odds
Even with drastically different results in their week one matchups, oddsmakers still have this as a potentially tight contest as they opened the Jayhawks as a -3.5 favorite. Bettors have favored the idea of the Fighting Illini to bounce back after a close win against Toledo, backing them down to +3 in some shops.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a quick pace as oddsmakers opened the number at 55.5. Bettors believe the scoring pace may be a tad faster, taking the number up to 57 as of writing. A curious line movement as bettors are also backing Illinois and the Fighting Illini’s play style favors the under while their defense is poised to slow down the Jayhawks.
Illinois Vs. Kansas Key Matchups
Can Illinois slow down Jalon Daniels? Will the Fighting Illini’s ground game show up?
The Return of Jalon Daniels
As previously mentioned, dual threat quarterback Jalon Daniels makes his debut for the Jayhawks after missing their season opener. He was dealing with a back injury, potentially affecting his ability to scramble out of the pocket against a stout Illinois defensive line that excels at generating a push and stuffing the line.
Until the Illinois second level can prove they can limit Rush Explosiveness then it is more crucial than ever that their defensive line can continue to dominate. Especially against a hobbled Daniels, making him uncomfortable in the pocket and punishing him for running out in the open space.
Hit the Ground Running
For an offense that heavily relies on the ground game, it was shocking to see how little they produced against the Toledo defense. Their running backs combined for 88 yards, nearly getting outgained by their quarterback who finished with 69.
It’s tough to overreact to one week, but with the new clock rules comes an added emphasis to finding success on the ground right away as teams deal with less possessions.
Both Reggie Love III and Josh McCray now benefit from going against another weak defense, a defense that struggles to plug the gaps and make open field tackles. Should both get limited again, then it may be time to hit the panic button. Until then, expect the duo to bounce back and regress back towards the mean in terms of rush production.