Texas Bowl Predictions: Illinois vs. Baylor Odds and Betting Picks
by Alan Matthews - 12/28/2010
The Dec. 29 Texas Bowl between Illinois and Baylor would probably be a much better basketball matchup than a football clash, but I’m sure both schools are happy to be traveling to Houston’s Reliant Stadium.
Both schools stumbled down the stretch. Illinois (6-6) lost three of its final four games but is in the postseason for the first time since getting crushed in the 2008 Rose Bowl. Baylor (7-5) had its first winning season since 1995 and earned a bowl bid for the first time since the 1994 Alamo Bowl. This could be a very high-scoring game as Baylor allowed 150 points in its final three games while the Illini allowed 157 in their final four.
Illinois and Baylor both have one of the best players in their respective conferences.
For the Illini it’s running back Mikel Leshoure, who led Big Ten running backs (Michigan QB Denard Robinson was the only player with more yards rushing than Leshoure) in rushing with 1,522 yards, which is almost 400 more yards than any other conference running back. He had a 330-yard game against Northwestern at Wrigley Field, the highest total of any FBS player this season. Leshoure is tied with Oregon’s LaMichael James and Hawaii’s Alex Green for the most runs of 30 or more yards this season with 11. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is solid, having thrown for 1,583 yards and 17 scores and is the second-leading rusher on the team with 815 yards on the ground. The Illinois offense exploded in the second half of the season, averaging 42.8 points and 435.8 total yards over the last six games.
The Bears are led by a Denard Robinson-type (and the Illini know all about him) in sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin. He has bounced back nicely from a knee injury that ended his season after three games a year ago. Griffin is seventh in the country in total offense at 315.5 yards per game and completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 3,195 yards and 21 touchdowns with eight interceptions. He also rushed for 591 yards and eight touchdowns. Griffin is joined in the backfield by senior running back Jay Finley, who has rushed for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. The Bears are also one of just three Division I FBS schools to have five receivers with 35+ receptions. They are one of only three FBS teams among the nation’s Top 25 in both passing offense and rushing offense, joining Boise State and Tulsa.
Illinois ranks 29th nationally against the run (131.3 ypg), but obviously slipped in the final four games after allowing 17.2 points per game in October. Look for star linebacker Martez Wilson, an All-Big Ten selection who leads Illinois in tackles (105), tackles for loss (10.5) and forced fumbles (3), to be Griffin’s shadow for the game. Baylor is ranked 98th in total defense (73rd against the rush) and allowed at least 40 points six times this season.
Baylor Head Coach Art Briles is 0-3 all-time as a head coach in bowls, with all three coming while he was at Houston. These two schools have met just once, a Baylor victory in 1976. There is no common opponent from this year even though Illinois did play (and lose to) the Big 12’s Missouri.
Texas Bowl – Illinois vs. Baylor Odds
Baylor is currently a one-point favorite on college football odds with the total at 62.5. The Bears are getting a 65 percent lean on the side. The line has moved between a half-point and a point down from its opening at most books and the total has risen a point. Illinois was 8-4 ATS this season while Baylor was 5-7.
Texas Bowl – Illinois vs. Baylor Betting Trends
Illinois is 3-13 ATS in its past 16 non-conference games.
Baylor is 5-0 ATS in its past five as a favorite of 0.5-3.0.
The ‘over’ is 5-1 ATS in the Illini’s past six games.
The ‘over’ is 7-1 ATS in Baylor’s past eight games.
Texas Bowl Predictions – Illinois vs. Baylor Betting Picks
Clearly Baylor should have a huge fan advantage with the game being held in the Lone State State. Michigan’s dual-threat Robinson shredded the Illini earlier this season and Baylor’s Griffin is a better passer than Robinson (but not quite the runner). Griffin is the difference here. Take Baylor and the ‘over’.
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