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Nebraska vs. Illinois best bets

The Cornhuskers and Illini open up the 2021 FBS football season. We take a look at both teams, and find a pick to be made.

Head coach Scott Frost of the Nebraska Cornhuskers looks on from the sideline during a regular season game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at SHI Stadium on December 18, 2020 in Piscataway, New Jersey. Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

Welcome back, The Best Sport! The Nebraska Cornhuskers and Illinois Fighting Illini open the 2021 season, and while it’s not great football... it is absolutely Big Ten college football!

While the oddsmakers have Nebraska barely squeaking into a bowl this season (over/under 6 wins), and Illinois are likely just happy to be here under new coach Bret Bielema (3.5 wins), it’s still a Big Ten game and you’re going to watch. Here’s all the data you’ll want, and a pick below!

SP+ Rankings

Nebraska: 32 overall, 46 offense, 29 defense
Illinois: 81 overall, 77 offense, 83 defense

Injury update


RB Markese Stepp - Probable (foot)
TE Thomas Fidone II Out (knee)


WR Marquez Beason Out (hamstring)
DL Jamal Woods Questionable (foot)
DL Roderick Perry II Questionable (undisclosed)
OL J. Slaughter Out for season (ankle)


Against The Spread

Nebraska: 4-4 ATS (2020)
Illinois: 3-5 ATS (2020)


Nebraska: Over 1-7 (2020)
Illinois: 4-4 (2020)

Returning/Overall Talent from 247Sports

Nebraska: 27 overall, 23 offense, 30 defense
Illinois: 63 overall, 60 offense, 63 defense

Current lines at DraftKings Sportsbook

Spread: Nebraska -7
Total: 55
Moneyline: Nebraska -275, Illinois +220

Opening line: Nebraska -9.5
Opening total: 56.5


89 degrees, 9 MPH wind, 10% chance of rain

The Pick

Under 55

It’s Adrian Martinez vs. a coach that wants to run the ball, so how do we exactly break 50 here?

Bret Bielema’s run-heavy system doesn’t fit with the personnel from the Lovie Smith Era (94th on overall talent at the OL position). And anything that happens with Nebraska this season wouldn’t surprise us. Their ceiling on talent might be a chance to win the Big Ten West, but their floor has been realized in every season of the Scott Frost Era so far.

And having the NCAA hanging over the program either galvanizes teams or pulls them apart. Let’s see which way things break after 60 minutes of football for Big Red.

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