Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 1015 AM EST odds are subject to change.
Illinois @ Nebraska +7½
Memorial Stadium – Lincoln, NE
3:30 PM EST. For the two teams in question, one has been a pleasant surprise while the other has been a campaign of prolonged disappointment. In this occasion, the former would be describing the #18 Fighting Illini of Illinois and the latter would be the old blue-blood known as the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Categorically we would expect the opposite to be the case but alas, here we are.
What resonates most is the opening price of Illinois -6.5. The Illini, who stand 6-1 on the year, while being ranked in the top 25 were spotting less than a converted touchdown to the hosts who are 3-4 on the season, whose wins include North Dakota (a FCS team), Indiana, and a one-point win at Rutgers. A Nebraska team who incidentally fired their head coach mid-season, lost here in Lincoln to Georgia Southern as a 23-point favorite, and got blown out by Oklahoma (which appears worse as each week has gone by) was not even trusted with a converted touchdown at the opening bell. That’s rather curious.
The efficient market quickly responded and bet the Illini up to the price you see here, which prompts us to take a deep look at the ‘Huskers. What we can infer, however, is that there is value here, not because of the subsequent line movement but also because of the historical aspects of this series. You see, the Illini have covered five of the last seven in this series and on the year, they are 5-2 against the numberl. We cite this frequently but such trends render a team to be overvalued in scenarios such as these. Yet to draw back to the initial point, Illinois was not trusted to lay a converted touchdown. All sorts of alarms are going off with this one.
Illinois has won its last five games this year and two of those victories are comprehensive double-digit beatdowns of teams such as Minnesota and Wisconsin. Teams who were ranked at one point in 2022. However, their one blip on the year would suggest that the emerging Illini could still have a bad game; see Indiana in early September. The Illini, after crushing Wyoming the week before in a 38-6 rout, followed-up with a letdown 23-20 loss in Indiana to the Hoosiers whose other wins include Idaho (FCS) and a narrow escape against Western Kentucky in overtime to round off their schedule. A closer look under the hood of Illinois’ schedule reveals their habit to play down to the level of the competition. We reference the Wyoming/Indiana situation and again after rolling Wisconsin 34-10 in East Madison as a 6.5-point pup, the Illini had to survive Iowa in a 9-6 rock fight the week after. Coming in off a bye week after a dominant 26-14 win against Minnesota as a 4½-point dog, oddsmakers are suspicious that the Illini may be in line to bring their “C” Game”. For what it’s worth, this is the Illini’s first time spotting a significant tag on the road. It’s significant that oddsmakers had that garbage team in Minnesota favored by -4½ over Illinois. Bottom line is oddsmakers do not like the look of the Illini.
Nebraska is still looking for that signature win to put its program back on the map. Since Mickey Joseph took over for Scott Frost, the atmosphere in Lincoln has become more optimistic. Since being fed to the wolves in his first stint as skipper against Oklahoma, Joseph has led Nebraska to two conference wins and the one loss against Purdue most recently was a game that the Boilermakers led by as much as 17 just before halftime but Nebraska refused to go away. The team has responded well to Joseph’s presence and that will be influential in how they approach this game. Against Purdue, the ‘Huskers could have had a chance to get the ball back and even win the game but a roughing the passer on 3rd and 11 called on the Cornhuskers allowed Purdue to escape with a 43-37 shootout win. However, the market’s lack of faith in Nebraska is still percolating. The number presented strongly suggests that the ‘Huskers are live as lightning today. We’ll scoop up the points and won’t be shocked if chaos happens and Nebraska wins outright.
Nebraska +7½ -110 (Risking 2.20 units - To Win: 2.00)