Illinois vs. Kent State fearless prediction and game preview.
Date: Saturday, September 1
Game Time: 12:00 pm ET
Venue: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL
Illinois (0-0) vs. Kent State (0-0) Game Preview
It’s the first game of the rest of these program’s lives.
Illinois is coming off a miserable 2-10 season, but it might have been the proverbial big step back to take a giant leap forward. Lovie Smith went really, really young with the Illini team that lost ten straight games to close out the season, and now the payoff has to start.
Kent State also went 2-10, and now it’s kicking off a new era under head coach Sean Lewis and his FlashFast offense. The idea is to finally give the program some sort of an offensive attack – it only scored more than 20 points once against an FBS team – but it’s not all going to come together overnight.
The two teams met once, with Illinois winning the 2015 opener 52-3.
One Reason Why Kent State Will Win
Illinois was one of the few teams last season that could rival Kent State when it came to miserable offenses, and it still could take a little while before it all starts to work.
The quarterback situation is going to be a work in progress throughout the first part of the season, the line isn’t all that great, and it all has to start working right away under new offensive coordinator Rod Smith. Coming in from Arizona, he wants tempo, he wants the spread attack to work, and he wants this thing to go fast.
This isn’t a power offense in Champaign, and that helps a veteran Kent State defense that has quickness and bodies to throw into a rotation, but is missing the bulk up front. As long as the line can hold up against the pounding, this could stay close. However …
One Reason Why Illinois Will Win
The Kent State offense has a long, long way to go to merely be decent.
Yeah, the Illinois offense was awful last season, but that was against Big Ten teams, and it was partly because of the youth movement. Kent State just didn’t have the talent.
The Illini offense will want to go fast, but Kent State will try to up the pace even faster, and that’s not necessarily anything to be worried about.
As long as the Illinois D can hold up on third downs – nine of the top ten tacklers are back – and if it can blow up a mediocre Kent State O line that allowed way too many plays in the backfield, stopping the FlashFast won’t be an issue.
What’s Going To Happen
Auburn transfer Woody Barnett is going to be a problem for Illinois, at least for a little while.
The new quarterback will add a little something special for the Golden Flash offense for the Illinois linebacking corps to deal with, but after a little bit of a rocky start, it’ll all start to come together in the second half.
After halftime, Illinois will go on a few scoring drives to start to pull away, Kent State will push a little too hard, and the mistakes will come. The final score won’t be pretty, but both teams will look a bit ragged as they won’t have the timing down for their respective fast-paced attacks.
Fearless Prediction & Line
Illinois 34, Kent State 10
Line: Illinois -16, o/u: COMING
ATS Confidence out of 5: 3.5
Must See Rating: 2
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