An Early Look at Illinois
With Nebraska on bye this week, there will be additional time to scout the upcoming opponent for the Huskers. Illinois hosts Miami of Ohio on Saturday in an early game. How the Illini look after a bye week against the RedHawks will do a lot to determine expectations for the October 5th game in Lincoln. Here's what we know so far.
As bad as Nebraska's defense has looked so far, the Illinois defense might be as bad or worse. They rank below the Huskers in total defense, scoring defense, passing defense, pass efficiency defense, turnovers forced, third down defense, and red zone defense. They hold a slight edge in rushing defense (though still not good) and on first down defense (also not good).
Other than passing yards and turnovers lost, they trail Nebraska in virtually every meaningful offensive category. That includes total offense, rushing offense, pass efficiency offense, scoring offense, third down conversions, red zone offense, first downs offense, and time of possession.
NU holds the edge in net punting and turnover margin. The Illini have gotten more out of their return game and have committed fewer penalties (though still not good in the penalty department). You could point to a tougher schedule thus far for Illinois, which is another reason why the Miami of Ohio game might be a good additional data point heading into the game with Nebraska.
With the home field advantage and a bye week to get fresh, sharpen skills and focus, you'd have to like the Huskers at this point. What we see Saturday might tell us a little more about how far apart the two programs are.