2017 Illinois vs Ball State

Posted on August 30, 2017. Filed under: Football, NCAA Sports, Sporting News | Tags: , , , , |

Illini host MAC’s Ball State in opener

September 1, 2017

PrezRo
compiled by Prez Ro
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Game Preview

Broadcast, TV, Game Time
Date: Saturday, Sept. 2nd
Game Time:12:00 pm ET
Venue: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL
Network: BTN

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Illinois, there’s no reason to not start out hot. Or is there? Time for week one actions….

Illinois is (1-0) all-time against the Ball State Cardinals. There last (and only) meeting was in 2007, Illinois won 28-17 at Memorial Stadium. Ball State is (3-36-1) against teams in the Big Ten. All three wins have come against the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington -or- Indianapolis.

Not to start the season being over confident about the Illini or to appear condescending, but we all know there’s still work to be done on an inconsistent offense from last season, and the defense that needs fine tuning.

This week, Mike Neu’s Ball State Cardinals will travel to Champaign to open their season with the Fighting Illini. The MAC West’s worst team a year ago, Ball State comes into the 2017 campaign after posting a 4-8 record last season. While that’s not anything to brag about, it should be noted that 4 of the 8 losses the Cardinals had were by 7 points or less (2 were by 3 points or less).

The Ball State offense creates big holes to roll through, and that’s not a plus for an Illinois defense needing to overcome the loss of all four starters up front. They can flat out run the football and having a quarterback as mobile as Riley Neal makes that an easier feat to overcome. Neal was the third best rushing QB in the MAC, averaging 4.3 yards per carry, totaling 543 yards, and scoring 8 touchdowns. In the backfield is James Gilbert, who ran for 1332 yards (3rd in MAC) averaging 5.3 yards per carry (8th in MAC) and 12 touchdowns (T1st in MAC) in 2016. If there’s one thing that Illinois needs to defend against on Saturday, it’s the run.

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On contrast, Illinois did not defend against the run well last season. Ranked 103rd in the nation in average rushing yards surrendered (219.2 yds/g), Ball State’s experienced rushing attack will cause some problems for the Illini on Saturday. The good news though, is that Illinois has a new JUCO transfer starting at linebacker in Del’Shawn Phillips. We will see how Hardy Nickerson will have his defense prepared to handle the Cardinal run-game…

In short, the Illini must win this opener against Ball State but as we know, it will not be easy. The Cardinals will be a tough competitor who will not lay down and surrender. With Western Kentucky and a trip to South Florida up next, nothing is given to this Illini team and they must show up and play four quarters.

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