Cal -6 2.2% play
Personally I think Cal is the play here, with Illinois getting over 60% of the tickets and money at the moment, because the mentality of Big 10 > PAC 12. PAC 12 actually was 3-0 SU & ATS vs. the Big 10 this year before Iowa clobbered USC in their bowl game. The PAC 12 5-3 SU & ATS vs. other P5 schools while Big Ten went 2-7 ATS. This game is being played in Santa Clara, CA where Cal will certainly have a crowd edge.
Offensively both teams are run first teams that want to protect the ball, but Illinois likes to play with pace ranking 23rd in the country while Cal ranks 90th, and I think that could come back to bite them in this game against Cal's defense. Cal needs to run the ball, and I have reason to believe they can. Illinois has allowed 8 of their 12 opponents to run for 150+ yards this season, and when Cal can do that they average 27 points per game and are 4-0 with wins by 13, 10, 14, and 1 over Washington on the road. When Chase Garbers has been in the lineup for Cal this team exceeds expectations with +18 yards per game vs. what opponents typically give up and they are 6-0 SU, 4-2 ATS. Illinois offense ranks 115th in ypp, and they have been outagained by 90 yards per game. They convert just 33% on third down, and rank 92nd in ypc going up against the 20th ranked team.
On paper it seems like both of these defenses are even, but Cal ranks 41st in YPP allowed and that comes having faced an average ypp offense ranking 46.7. Compare that with Illinois who ranks 57th, against an average opponent offense ranking 78.25. Illinois played Connecticut, Akron, and Eastern Michigan in their non-conference slate compared to Cal who faced Ole Miss on the road, an SEC team. Illinois defense has been fortunate at times with the turnovers, but Cal has turned the ball over just 9 times all year long, and they have only lost 4 fumbles. I don't think Illinois can rely on winning the TO battle here, and when they don't they are 0-3.
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