On Saturday, September 2nd, both the Ball State Cardinals and Illinois Fighting Illini open their 2017 season. This game signals two teams looking to turn around their programs and begin the season on a winning note. Kickoff is at 12 P.M. ET at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois.
The Fighting Illini look to overcome their offensive problems from 2016 by putting more points on the board and more W’s in the win column. Their abysmal offense led them to a disappointing 3-9 record, but there is optimism brewing in Champaign. Hopes are that Lovie Smith will right the ship and get this program back to winning again.
The Cardinals come into 2017 with an explosive offense and a terrible defense. The success of their season depends on how well they have fixed the defensive side of the ball in the offseason. With the talent on offense, this team could really make a run at a bowl game if the defense can show signs of improvement.
The line opened with Ball State getting 9 points. It has come down to + 7.5 points for the Cardinals. The Over/Under has stayed locked at 58 points.
One would think that a game between two terrible defenses should result in a high scoring game that hits the Over. And, in most cases that would be true. However, in the case of these two teams, they both failed to put points on the board during 2016.
The Cardinals averaged nearly 450 yards per game on offense, which is an impressive number that should’ve won them more games. Additionally, they had a great balance with the run and pass. Unfortunately, the offense was only able to put up 27 points per game in 2016, while the defense gave up 30 PPG. Another thing to look at is that the Cardinals scored 103 points in the 4th quarter of games last year. This typically means that they were playing from behind and most likely did some of this damage during garbage time.
Illinois’ offense was downright dreadful last year. They averaged just under 20 points per game and had the second worst third down percentage in the nation at 28 percent. Additionally, they were a run-heavy offense with an inconsistent passing game at best. The Illini are more likely to fix the defensive problems, since Lovie Smith is a great defensive mind, than their offensive woes.
Even if both teams were able to hit their 2016 PPG average (20 and 27), they would still be a good 10+ points under. Furthermore, in 2016, Ball State averaged 24.7 points per game on the road, while Illinois scored 23.4 points per game at home. If these teams hit those numbers, they would still be more than 10 points under the 58 point total.
In the Cardinals last 4 road games, the Under is 4-0. It’s also hit 15 out of the last 22 Cardinals games. For the Illini, the Under is 5-1 in the last 6 September games, and has the same mark for the last 6 non-conference games.
Despite both teams having bad defenses, their inability to put points on the board will keep the score Under 58 total points.