Free Week 1 Prediction: Zips vs. Fighting Illini Odds
Looking for Akron Zips vs. Illinois Fighting Illini free picks? Week 1 betting sees the Zips taking on the Fighting Illini Saturday August 31 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois. Cappers Picks provides complimentary handicapping picks all NCAA football season long so stay tuned for more FREE college football predictions like this Akron Illinois Week 1 free pick.
College Football Handicapping: Week 1
(0-0) Akron Zips vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (0-0)
Date: Saturday, August 31st 2019
Time: 12:00 pm EST
Venue: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL
NCAA Football Spread: Illinois -17
NCAA Betting Total: 61
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It’s essentially a do or die season for Love Smith and the perpetually rebuilding Fighting Illini. Illinois begins their quest for at least a bowl berth in a very winnable home game vs. the Akron Zips who were just a 4-win team a year ago.
Things are expected to be a lot better for Akron in the 2019 campaign. For one, they have a regime change that includes new head coach Tom Arth, a former backup to Peyton Manning.
The 38-year old Arth takes over for 63-year-old Terry Bowden and the change in energy has to be instantly noticeable. The Akron offense also returns 7 starters even though it was a unit that was one of the worst in the nation. The Zips were 124th in scoring, 125th in rushing, and 126th in total yards a year ago.
The biggest thing the arrival of Arth and his staff can do is help QB Kato Nelson take the next step in his career. Nelson begins his 3rd season as a starter and had 2329 yards and 15 TD’s in 2018 despite having virtually no running game.
It’s obvious that the biggest question mark for the opener for Akron is their defense. Akron returns only 3 starters from a unit that wasn’t very good last year anyways.
The Zips best area on that side of the ball is their defense, which was 27th in the country vs. the pass at just 191 yards per game. Some of that comes from playing in the MAC though and some is attributed to the poor Akron offense who often had their team out of the game by halftime.
An improved offense should help the Zips defense in 2019 by getting them off the field. Akron was held to 17 points or less in 7 of 12 games in 2018.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois should get their season off to a positive start but this is a team that consistently underachieves and disappoints. The Fighting Illini are 9-27 so far in coach Lovie Smith’s three years in charge.
What Illinois does have going for them is a solid running game that was 2nd in the Big Ten a year ago. Almost all the moving parts of that successful ground attack are back too including All Big Ten performer Reggie Corbin, who ran for 1,085 a year ago.
Now to Illinois biggest issue and why they are a risk as 17 point favorites over Akron – the QB position. It’s looking like Sr. transfer Brandon Peters job to start at least. Peters was at Michigan but threw just 2 passes last year – and one was intercepted.
Running the ball and playing defense has always been Smith’s recipe for success. In order to accomplish the latter this season Smith has taken over the defensive coordinating duties. Illinois needed a change too after ranking 113th or worse in the country in passing and rushing yards allowed, total scoring, and total yards.
Illinois allowed 46 points or more in 5 of their last 7 games in 2018. They did do OK in their non-conference slate a year ago, beating Kent State 31-24 and Western Illinois 34-14. Is this really a team you can trust at -17 though?
NCAA Football Handicapping Trends
- Zips are 2-7 ATS last 9 on fieldturf
- Fighting Illini are 2-5 ATS last 7 overall
- Fighting Illini are 0-5 ATS last 5 games in August
Free Week 1 NCAA Football Pick
Both defenses are pretty bad in this game but neither offense is good enough to warrant the 61 point over/under.
4* Free NCAA Betting Pick: Under 61
Akron has the QB edge but Illinois’ defense should be better, especially with Smith calling the plays. The Illinois offense is a huge concern between Peters throwing 2 passes a year ago and one of the Big Ten’s worst receiving corps. Illinois wants to pound the ball and run the clock thus 61 points is going to be hard to reach.
Week 1 Free Score Prediction: Illinois 26 – Akron 20
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