After opening the season against William and Mary, Virginia football hosts a Power Five matchup against Illinois. The first contest should serve as a warmup to the Big Ten opponent. Kickoff is scheduled earlier than usual at 11:00 AM Eastern on Saturday, September 11th.
DraftKings Sportsbook offers some early odds on the contest. Virginia is an 11-point favorite at -110. That translates to a significant favorite at the moneyline with -400 odds to win. In contrast, Illinois is set at +300 underdogs on the moneyline.
Recapping The 2020 Season For Virginia Football
In the shortened year, Virginia went 5-5 over their 10 games with the contest at Florida State being canceled at the end of November. They rebounded from a rough 1-4 start by winning high-scoring affairs against North Carolina, Louisville, and Boston College. Things ended on a difficult note with a 33-15 loss to rival Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers opted out of a potential bowl game when the regular season ended.
Can Virginia Football Rebound On Defense?
Virginia’s offense has been ranked well below average nationally since 2013. That finally changed last season with an offense that averaged 423.3 yards per game. They were able to average 30.7 points per game with that production, which paved the way to a more successful second half of the season.
However, that offense needed to produce at a high level. In three of their four early losses, the Cavaliers allowed 38 or more points. Most of the problems fell on defending the pass. The unit ranked last in the ACC.
On a more positive note, many key players make a return. Joey Blount, a senior at safety, had his 2020 campaign cut short due to injury. In a full season as a junior, Blount had 95 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 3 interceptions. Linebacker Nick Jackson led the way with 105 tackles as a sophomore.
New Era Under Bret Bielema Begins In Illinois
Under head coach Lovie Smith, the Fighting Illini never found consistency. The football program is hoping that changes by bringing in former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema. He already holds familiarity with the Big Ten and won’t have to start off with a complete rebuild in his debut season.
What Virginia’s defense may struggle with is stopping the run. Illinois’ strength is in the offensive line, and tailback Chase Brown led the way a season ago on the ground. He had 13 attempts per game, totaling 540 yards across eight games, and scored three times. Incoming transfer Chase Hayden brings experience from his time at Arkansas and East Carolina.
Sports Betting Recommendation
- Virginia -11 (-110, DraftKings)
Both Virginia and Illinois have average expectations in 2021. The Fighting Illini will have a few games under their belt with home contests against Nebraska and Texas-San Antonio prior to the trip. That should help in terms of having familiarity under the new head coach.
Illinois’ lackluster defense will have its hands full. Their passing attack likely won’t be able to burn Virginia’s defense. The Cavaliers should be ready after their contest against William and Mary.
This is also a good opportunity to grab the line before it gets higher. Illinois has their work cut out for them in the opener against Nebraska. If they don’t look good in Bielema’s debut, this spread could stretch them out to two-touchdown underdogs.