Toledo (0-0) at Illinois (0-0), Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
Line: Illinois by 9.5, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Series record: First meeting.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Illinois wants to start strong after losing four of its final five games last season, tarnishing an 8-5 record that ended a streak of 10 straight losing seasons. Toledo, the defending Mid-American Conference champion, wants to justify its preseason hype as the favorite to win the MAC West Division. The Rockets were 9-5 last year.
Illinois defense vs. Toledo’s balanced offense. The Illini had the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation last season (12.8 points allowed per game) but it will get a stout test from a dangerous Toledo offense led by QB Dequan Finn, who threw for 2,260 yards and 23 touchdowns and ran for 631 yards and nine TDs last season. Finn was 10-for-19 for 153 yards and two TDs against Ohio State. The Rockets have a strong offensive line with several returnees from last season. The Illini had the third-ranked overall defense a year ago, giving up 273.5 yards per game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Toledo: RB Jacquez Stuart is the Rockets’ top rusher. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry last season while running for 770 yards and 4 TDs. He had 111 yards rushing in Toledo’s win over Liberty in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Illinois: DT Jer’Zhan Newton is one of the top players in the country. He was a second team All-American last season (62 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks). He is also the brother of Toledo All-MAC WR Jerjuan Newton.
FACTS & FIGURES
Toledo is 6-15 all-time vs. the Big Ten. … The Rockets’ most recent win over a Big Ten foe came against Purdue in 2010 … Illinois returns 10 All-Big Ten players … Toledo returns 16 starters, including seven All-MAC selections … The Rockets’ stingy secondary is led by cornerback Quinyon Mitchell, who was the national leader last season with 1.8 passes defended per game (20 breakups, five interceptions). … Toledo is bidding to become the first team to win back-to-back MAC titles since Northern Illinois in 2011-12. … The Rockets haven’t repeated as MAC champs since their run of three in a row from 1969-71.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll
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