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Week 0 Picks: Illinois-Nebraska Predictions, Preview

We...apparently have thoughts.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 19 Orange and Blue Spring Game Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images


As a note: to get as many writer picks as possible, we tend to take the line from Tuesday morning-ish, unless there’s any big development like a player injury or Scott Frost learning how to be a football coach. We’re still working out the kinks in the new spreadsheet and with new writers, so bear with us.

Nebraska Cornhuskers at Illinois Fighting Illini

12pm | FOX | UNL -7 | O/U 55

Straight-Up: Nebraska, 8-4
Against the Spread: Nebraska, 7-5

Closest thing Nebraska’s gonna be to 8-4 or 7-5, amirite

WSR: So....yeah. Nebraska is bad, Illinois has been bad.

The last time we saw our old buddy Bert in the college ranks, he was working on balancing out his career record by going 29-34 (11-29 SEC) at Arkansas. Did the game change? Is Arkansas too much of a challenge for one man given just 5 years? Is he just a product of Barry Alvarez running the football program at wisconsin?

Nobody knows.

What we do know is that Bert can put together teams that’ll manball the hell out of you, and that Nebraska is abysmally soft and is susceptible to teams that’ll manball the hell out of you. It seems to me like this outcome seems rather obvious, even without Bert having a ton of time to get things humming the way he wants in Chambana because he’s going up against one of the worst coaches to grace the B1G in the last 20 years (Beckman, Lynch, Hazell, Brewster, Frost. Tell me why they don’t belong together, if you dare).

My only wish for this game is that Bert goes back to the well for this game and wishes Scott Frost good luck coaching D3 next year after the game.

Kind of...: Illinois made a bowl in 2019 and my #narrative is that plenty of teams—Illinois included—can claim “Covid” and ignore 2020. Now Illinois is usually bad and 2019 actually looks like the outlier, but I think Bert at a B1G school is a perfectly competent coach in a way that Scott Frost may not be. Game’s at Illinois, Bert will have a couple of surprises ready, I’m taking the Illini.

Beez: Will the punishment never end? In the midst of a neverending pandemic, CFB is finally back, and the reward is this...thing. Yes, technically it is a game, and because everything continues to be meh-at-best, you should expect an easy, coasting Nebraska win that generates enough national attention (we’re DESPERATE) for someone to be talked about as the August Heisman and Scott Frost to be at the top of COY Watch Lists until at least week 5.

Townie: Beginning the 2021 college football season with this game is like chugging Mad Dog 2020 before you go to the bar for the night. I mean, I’ll probably watch some of it, because it can be nominally classified as football...but I know I’ll regret it.

Nebraska should own this game from start to finish. They have a better team, better coaching and better continuity. If they don’t win, they should kick the whole coaching staff to the curb, fold up sfhop, and take up badminton.

HWAHSQB: I’m going to wake up at 4 AM so I can be at this game. It’s a stupid noon kickoff. It’s going to be stupid 90 degrees for a B1G game. I stupidly went to the first game of the Lovie era and look how great that turned out. Why? I don’t know, but if you ever feel sorry about your stupid life, remember, you could be an Illini fan.

MNW: Maybe the hope that springs eternal in Champaign can finally pay off.

In my preseason record predictions, I had the Illini grabbing this one at home. I dig the power-run identity that Bert has, and while Nebraska improved markedly in its defensive line metrics from Football Outsiders in 2020—from “Putrid” to “Passable”(: the Scott Frost Story)—something told me it wouldn’t be quite enough for an amped Illini squad eager to make an impression and a statement under Bielema.

You know what? It’s Week 0. No sense talking myself out of that now. Illini, 27-24.

MaximumSam: Nebraska has to win this game, right? I mean, Year Four of Scott Frost can’t be losing to Illinois in the opener. Bert is probably drinking a Coors Light right now and only vaguely thinking Illinois has a game this week. In fact, I’d bet even money he didn’t know there was a game until an assistant told him on Monday. Scott Frost is going to have to do some soul searching if they can’t get this win.

Stew: There is undoubtedly a lot of wishful thinking in this pick, but I just want troll Bert back and to roll up on UNL running power right into UNL over and over and over again.

BuffKomodo: Since this is week 0 and my first time picking, I get a breakfast-ball here, right? No? Ok. This game kind of sucks, just like Scott Frost. Too bad he can’t play Indiana each year, am I right? That said, Illinois will be complete garbage and Nebraska is moderately okay, so Nebrasker to win and cover. God willing, I will miss my first pick and Scott Frost will be gone by week 5.

RockyMtnBlue: Ok, first of all, what are you talking about, Max? There’s no way Bert drinks light beer. Any sort of critical thought suggests this should be jNebby all the way, so I guess I’ll take them to cover. But it would be SO much more fun if Illinois kicks their asses.

Thumpasaurus: I have responses!

29-34 (11-29 SEC) at Arkansas

How does that compare to 17-39 (10-33)? Or 12-25 (4-20)? What about 34-51 (18-38)? Or 35-57 (20-44)?

plenty of teams—Illinois included—can claim “Covid” and ignore 2020

We actually gained tremendous value from 2020 because we got rid of the albatross round the neck of the Dick Butkus statue.


Illinois has 6 5 (RIP Jordyn Slaughter’s ankle) offensive linemen that are very large and very strong, three of whom have proven to be great run blockers in the Big Ten. All five starters are in their mid-20’s at this point; the three super-seniors Vederian Lowe, Doug Kramer and Alex Palczewski join former FCS all-conference guards Blake Jeresaty and Jack Badinovac. The Illini also have a proven pass-catching TE in Daniel Barker, a top-100 prospect with big-time blocking upside in TE Luke Ford, a 6’5” pro-style QB with some wheels and a deep RB room headlined by Football Canada 2020 Fans Choice Canadian NCAA Player of the Year Chase Brown.

IN THEORY, this is a very Bret Bielema-friendly offensive roster.

Where it might break down is when Nebraska stuffs the box. We’ll be in the first year of a new offense, after all, so while the fastball can be expected to be solid, the changeup might have some control problems. I also worry about our receivers, because only Brian Hightower can really win 1-on-1 matchups with tight coverage. We have a lot of speedy slot guys that would do well in an uptempo spread offense, but I doubt they’ll make an impact.

What I’m worried about is the defense, but I’m happy to be WORRIED about the defense! It’s a nice change of pace from “resignation that the defense will be laughably bad in the exact same predictable ways it always is.” On The Champaign Room, I predicted a 4-point Nebraska win, but I’m going to say Nebraska covers because I’ve heard that our top two interior D linemen, Roderick Perry and Jamal Woods, might not play. Jamal Woods is the Mike Dudek of Cory Liugets.

Since the only P5 conference matchup is for some reason relegated to a noon kickoff, the heat index will be in the triple digits for the second half. This favors Nebraska, as their offense forces the defense to do a lot of chasing. I have a feeling the floodgates will open late in the 3rd quarter. Illinois does have some Big Ten level players in the starting lineup, but there isn’t much quality depth at any position outside of RB. As soon as the heat gets to the defensive starters, the game might be over no matter what heroics Blake Hayes can provide in the punting game.


Straight up:

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    (86 votes)
  • 54%
    (101 votes)
187 votes total Vote Now


Against the spread:

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    Illinois +7
    (121 votes)
  • 37%
    Nebraska -7
    (72 votes)
193 votes total Vote Now