The Fighting Illini are led by QB Wes Lunt (RS So.), who is a 6'5 215-pound gunslinger with a quick release, the ability to put some zip on the ball and use some nice touch when warranted. A former 2-time HS State Champion in the state of Illinois, Lunt is having a great season thus far, averaging 340 passing yards per contest, posting nine TD's and only 2 interceptions on the young season.
As a team the Illinois offense seems to be fairly one dimensional as they only average 71 YPG on the ground, and only 2 rushing TD's through 3 games. Already on the season, the Illini has put the ball on the ground nine times, while losing the rock five out of the nine times. It will be up to Lunt along with his main target, WR Geronimo Allison (Jr.) to carry the load for Illinois as they have already hooked up 16 times for 300 yards and 2 scores. If the Bobcats can win the turnover battle and limit big plays down the field, they stand a good chance of pulling off the upset.
Defensively Illinois has struggled this season, giving up 183 rushing yards per game along with 231 through the air, forcing the Illini to have to play from behind in all three of their games so far this season. If the Bobcats can get on the board early and then eat away at Illinois with their run game, it will be up to the Bobcat defense and DC John Thompson to fend off Lunt from pulling off another late game run.
By Far the weakest aspect of Illinois is their red zone defense as they have failed to stop a single trip for opposing offenses going 0 for 12 and half of those being touchdowns. Mason Monheim is the leader of the defense coming in to Saturdays game with 31 tackles from the linebacker position. He's a coach on the field and is responsible for making any calls or changes for the Illini's defense.
For the Bobcats to have a big game, Rob Lowe, Terrence Franks, and C.J. Best all need to get involved, to take advantage of a nice match-up for the run game. It has to be stressed, but if the Bobcats can win the turnover battle, and can cut down on penalties, this is a very winnable game for the 'Cats. Expect a shootout in Champaign, and for the Bobcats to play a close one.
Defensively, Coach Thompson will have to find a way too get pressure without the presence of LB Mike Orakpo. If Lunt has all day to throw, he will pick apart the Bobcat's secondary. Look for a good mix of blitz packages from the Bobcats, as linebackers Stephen Smith, Jared Jeter Gilmon, and Trey McGowan will look to fill the big shoes of the fallen play-maker. It's pretty clear, that Illinois' offense, a Shotgun, 3 WR set, will have to be contained by Texas State's 4-2-5, at times 3-3-5 defense. Whoever gets the better of the head to head match-up, will likely prevail. Just as key will be the D-line play. Kris Peterson, Karee Berry, Michael Odiari, and any blitzing linebackers will have to put pressure on Lunt for the defense to have any success.