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Dalzell's Dish

2022 College Football Futures: Bet on the Illinois Fighting Illini

by Vaughn Dalzell
Updated On: August 9, 2022, 6:14 pm ET

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Illinois Fighting Illini O/U 4.5 Win Total

Last year, Illinois went 5-7 and lost four of those seven games by seven or fewer points.

Entering the second season under former Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, I expect Illinois to finish 5-7 or better for the 2022 season.

Illinois returns quarterback Artur Sitkowski (704 passing yards, 6 TDs, 2 INTs), who's 2021 season ended early due to an injury, plus 1,000-yard rusher Chase Brown (1,147 total yards, 5 TDs) is back and the teams leading receiver and former quarterback, Isaiah Williams (47 receptions, 525 yards, 4 TDs) returns for another year.

On defense, Illinois totaled the most sacks since 2011 (30 sacks) and return six starters on that side of the ball. The defense allowed 22 points per game and 366 yards per game last season, so they really just needed more consistent offensive play and should have that this year with a healthy Sikowski at quarterback, plus seven total offensive starters returning.

The real conversation to be had is the first four games of the season. That is where our money will be made on the Illinois win total.

We will need at least two wins in the first four games as Illinois hosts Wyoming (-10), Virginia and Chattanooga. The Fighting Illini have a road game at Indiana (+5.5) too in those first four games.

Down the road, Illinois has home games versus Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan State and Purdue this season, plus a road game at Northwestern, who is projected to finish behind Illinois. There is plenty of opportunity for five-plus wins.

Illinois schedule

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Illinois will have to beat Wyoming and Chattanooga in non-conference action to get going, but taking advantage of one or two Big Ten foes will be critical. Illinois will play Indiana and Nebraska on the road, plus Minnesota and Purdue at home. Those four are the keys.

Indiana is coming off a 2-10 season, Nebraska lost two straight versus Illinois, Minnesota trailed 14-0 last year to Illinois and the Fighting Illini hung onto win 14-7, plus Illinois almost beat Purdue in 2021 (Purdue 13 - Illinois 9). 

I think this Illinois team will improve in year two under Bielema and I am willing to back that at -120 juice to the Over 4.5 wins. Five wins seems very likely for the Fighting Illini especially after Sikowski's injury derailed this team last year.

Pick: Illinois Fighting Illini Over 4.5 (2u)



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