Breaking it down: Illini look to keep offense rolling
Who: Western Illinois vs. Illinois
When: 12 p.m. ET
Where: Memorial Stadium, Illinois
TV: Big Ten Network
Matchup to watch: Lance Lenoir vs. V’Angelo Bentley
Lenoir is a receiver/punt returner/kick returner is as dynamic a playmaker as the Leathernecks have. The junior already has the school’s all-time single season receptions record, and all he did in the opener was continue that trend. He had 10 catches for 124 yards with a score — albeit against Eastern Illinois — and returned a kick 71 yards. Ironically enough, he’ll likely be lined up against Illinois’ Swiss Army knife, V’Angelo Bentley, who played on all three sides of the ball for Illinois. Both players are arguably the best weapons on their respective teams, and could trade off dynamic plays if they aren’t properly accounted for.
Thing I’m excited to see: Wes Lunt operate more
Last year’s injury woes prevented us from seeing Lunt for a full season, and last week’s porous secondary prevented us from seeing Lunt for a full 60 minutes. He was removed early in the second half with Illinois dominating Kent State. Against a Western Illinois team that should be a little bit better defensively, we might get to see the Illini signal-caller play three full quarters. The priority for that Illini offensive line has to be protecting Lunt, who didn’t get sacked once in the opener. Against a smaller Western Illinois front seven, that shouldn’t be a problem this week, either.
Number to remember: 7
Western Illinois has been within seven points at halftime in each of their last three Big Ten meetings. That includes a trip to Camp Randall Stadium last year. They’ve gotten off to solid defensive starts in each of those meetings but haven’t been able to contain Big Ten athletes for four quarters. Having said that, don’t be surprised if this one stays close for a little longer than Illini fans are comfortable with. The Leathernecks won’t be intimidated by the atmosphere, especially if the Memorial Stadium crowd still isn’t up to par.
Prediction: Illinois 42, Western Illinois 14
As previously mentioned, I do think this one stays a little tight early. It won’t have the same feel as Illinois’ 38-0 halftime lead last week. It might be the first time Bill Cubit will have to make actual adjustments as a head coach. It might take a little longer, but still expect another monster game from the likes of Lunt, Geronimo Allison and Josh Ferguson. Let’s throw a Bentley touchdown in there, too. Just don’t ask me how he gets it.