Illinois is getting set to enter Year 2 under head coach Bret Bielema. That campaign gets started Saturday with a Week 0 showdown against Wyoming, making it back-to-back years that the Illini will get started early.

Heading into the game, Illinois looks to be a double-digit favorite with most lines up to 11 points for the season opener. With that in mind, here is a look at what to expect between the Illini and the visiting Cowboys at 3 p.m. CST Saturday (TV: BTN).

Wyoming mum on starting QB

Entering Saturday, the Cowboys have elected to go the secret route on their plans for a starting quarterback. Ahead of the match, Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said that a starter would be listed as “to be announced.” He proved good on that word with little evidence given as to who might take the first snap.

Health, youth a concern for Wyoming

After winning 7 games and a bowl game last season, the Cowboys must deal with a younger squad due to a large number of transfers out of the program. That includes the top 2 QBs from the 2021 program both departing.

To make matters worse, the Cowboys are down at least 7 players for the opener, according to Cody Tucker with 7220 Sports. Four of those players have sustained season-ending injuries.

By contrast, Illinois is very healthy heading into the season opener. During his Thursday press conference, Bielema revealed just one reserve player who might be questionable for the game.

Illinois tabs DeVito as QB1

For much of fall camp, Bielema has elected not to reveal who take the first snap of the game at QB. That changed Thursday when he finally broke and decided to announce Syracuse transfer Tommy DeVito as the starter, edging out Artur Sitkowski, who played for the Illini in 2021.

Even with DeVito starting, the QB room for the Illini is a big plus entering the season. Both Sitkowski and DeVito bring a veteran presence, and they have been pushing each other through fall camp. They will look to give Illinois a competent passing attack to go alongside the rushing attack.

Leading rushers return for Illinois

The good news for Bielema’s run-based offense is that he returns the team’s top two running backs from the 2021 offense. That includes a veteran 1,000-yard rusher in Chase Brown and Josh McCray, who rushed for 500 yards as a freshman in 2021.

While the QB decision is important for Illinois, it doesn’t change the game plan much — even with new OC Barry Lunney Jr. on board. There will be some new wrinkles, but expect the Illini to try and wear down Wyoming with ball control and the battle in the trenches.

Strong defense returns for Illinois

One of the truly bright spots for Illinois in 2021 was a defensive unit that made a huge leap in its first season under DC Ryan Walters. After surrendering 34.9 points per game during the shortened 2020 campaign, Illinois surrendered just 21.9 points per game with Walters at the helm.

That defense will keep Illinois in a striking position for many games, and it should put them in a great spot on Saturday against Wyoming.

Prediction: Illinois 24, Wyoming 10

Even if Illinois gets off to a sluggish offensive start, the defense should be more than up to the task against Wyoming. With so many injuries, the youth of the team and a lot of younger players likely to see the field, it will be tough for the Cowboys to engineer any sort of upset in Champaign.