Wyoming Cowboys (0-0) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (0-0)
August 27, 2022 4:00 pm EDT
The Line: Illinois Fighting Illini -10 / Wyoming Cowboys +10; Over/Under: +46.5
(Click here for latest betting odds)
The Illinois Fighting Illini and Wyoming Cowboys square off Saturday in week 0 college football action from Illini Memorial Stadium.
The Wyoming Cowboys come into the 2022 season after a 7-6 mark in 2021, finishing the year with a 2-6 mark in Mountain West conference play. The Cowboys did play well enough to earn a spot in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, taking out Kent State 52-38 for the bowl victory. There’s a lot of turnover from last year’s Cowboys squad, most notably losing leading QB Sean Chambers to Montana State and backup Levi Williams to Utah State. Andrew Peasley comes in from Utah State with some playing experience, but it’ll be an uphill climb under center. The Cowboys lost Isaiah Neyor to Texas, which hurts after logging 12 touchdowns last season, but there’s still some solid pieces like Trenton Welch at tight end and DeShawn Woods will be a big part of Wyoming’s success early on. Wyoming still seems to get production from its running backs, but losing Khazavian Valladay to Arizona State also hurts. Luckily, Wyoming still retains Titus Swen at RB after putting up almost 800 rushing yards and 7 TDs last season. On defense, there were losses as well, but Cole Godbout is a solid nose tackle and Jordan Bertagnole is a strong option at D-Tackle. Chad Muma led the Cowboys in tackling last year, but he’s gone. The good news at linebacker is that Easton Gibbs is back at LB after finishing second on the team in tackles while Cole DeMarzo transfers in from Michigan State and Shae Suiaunoa will provide some solid depth at the linebacker level. In the secondary, the transfer portal played a big role, as Deron Harrell comes in from Wisconsin and Jakorey Hawkins enters from Ole Miss while losing Azizi Hearn to UCLA and CJ Coldon to Oklahoma. Isaac White leads the charge at safety as well for Wyoming this coming season.
The Illinois Fighting Illini will look to bounce back in year two under Bret Bielema after finishing the year at 5-7 including a 4-5 mark in Big Ten conference play. Artur Sitkowski will hope to stay healthy and Tommy Devito transfers in from Syracuse to make it an interesting situation at the top of the depth chart at QB for the Illini this season as Sitkowski was showing promise before getting hurt last season while Devito has plenty of experience from his time in the Orange system, and will hope to thrive in a better situation than what he dealt with at Syracuse. The unsung strength of this Illini team may be the ground attack, with Chase Brown logging 1,000+ rushing yards and 5 TDs last season and Josh McCray providing a nice option as part of the two-headed attack. Isaiah Williams is expected to lead Illinois’ receiving corps after chipping in a team-high 47 catches last season while Luke Ford is expected to fill the void at tight end left by former top option Daniel Barker who ended up at Michigan State this season. On defense, the pass rush was the best it had been in years with their most sacks as a unit in the last ten years with Keith Randolph and Jer’Zhan Newton leading the charge while TeRah Edwards transferred in from Northwestern to bolster the front push. Tarique Barnes, Ezekiel Holmes and Seth Coleman will lead the way at linebacker for Illinois after losing a couple of their top options from last year’s group, Isaiah Gay and Owen Carney Jr. Sydney Brown returns as an all-Big Ten selection at safety while Devon Witherspoon leads the way at cornerback.
Wyoming is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games against the Big Ten and 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games overall while the over is 5-1 in their last 6 games overall. Illinois is 0-5-1 ATS in their last 6 non-conference games and 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games overall while the under is 8-2 in their last 10 games overall.
I get the case to be made for Wyoming with the points here, but there’s just too much turnover to have any real sort of confidence in the Cowboys with a reasonable line. Illinois has some turnover of their own, but they have two reliable options at QB and a defense that can make life hell for the Wyoming offense. I think this ends up as one of those games where the Illini pull away and win by two scores, so give me Illinois and lay the points with a statement win to start the year.
Chris Ruffolo’s Free Pick: