Illinois Fighting Illini
(6-6, 8-4 ATS)
(7-5, 5-7 ATS)
In the final year that the Big XII will have 12 members, the Baylor Bears are making a bowl appearance, becoming the last of the 12 teams in this conference to make it to the postseason. They’ll take on the Illinois Fighting Illini on Wednesday night at Reliant Stadium in Texas Bowl betting action.
Running the football is the key for the Illini in this one. They know that they are going to have the crowd against them in this one, but they really did a fine job beating the NCAA football odds all season long in what was really a do or die campaign for Head Coach Ron Zook. This was a team that averaged 243.5 yards per game this year, ranking No. 13 in the land. Freshman QB Nathan Scheelhaase was really under the gun, this year, and he only threw for 1,583 yards and 17 scores against eight scores. Where he really did excel was on the ground, as he carried the rock 175 times for 806 yards and four TDs. The men that you really have to look out for on the ground are RBs Mikel LeShoure and Jason Ford. Though Ford had 426 yards and seven scores, LeShoure was a dynamo all campaign long. He had the biggest rushing day of the year for any player in the country this season, rumbling for 330 yards on the Northwestern Wildcats. In total, LeShoure had 1,522 yards and 17 TDs.
Baylor really had a chance to challenge for the Big XII South title this year until losing the last three games of the season to fall out of contention and to slip into the Texas Bowl. This defense really struggled at times this year, allowing 420.2 yards per game and 29.8 points per game. Six different foes scored at least 42 points against this team this year, and if this is the same sort of play that we are going to see on Wednesday, there is no hope to beat the Texas Bowl odds. There is a ton of pressure on QB Robert Griffin and company on the other side of the ball, but there is clearly a lot of talent here to work with. This was a unit that scored at least 24 in all but one game this year (against the TCU Horned Frogs, nonetheless), and at least 30 points nine times. QB Robert Griffin III accounted for 3,786 yards between passing and rushing this year, and he had 29 total TDs to show for his work. The play of RB Jay Finley was really the difference maker though, as he averaged 6.3 yards per carry, had 1,155 yards, and 11 TDs on the campaign.
We just don’t like the way that the Bears ended this season. We know that they are good enough to put up some huge numbers in this up, but the Illini should really contain the Baylor offense thanks to this great running game. There will be no answers for LeShoure in this one, and he’ll help Illinois roll to a victory in the Lone Star State.
Texas Bowl Free Pick: Illinois Fighting Illini +1