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Toledo Rockets at Illinois Fighting Illini Betting Pick

It’s the first game of the 2023 season for both teams, as the Toledo Rockets visit Champaign, Illinois, to take on the Fighting Illini on Saturday. The Rockets come into this game fresh off a MAC title and a win in the Baca Raton Bowl a season ago.

Toledo downed Ohio 17-7 in the title game and then 21-19 over Liberty. The Rockets are led by Jason Candle, who will be starting his 8th season at the University.

For Illinois, it was a successful second season for Bret Bielema. The Fighting Illini went 8-5 and 5-4 in Big Ten play. The Fighting Illini played in the ReliaQuest Bowl but fell 19-10 to Mississippi State. The turnaround was huge following a five-win season in 2021.

The Fighting Illini are -9.5 in this game, with a total of 45.5 points.

Rockets Seeking to Launch Early

The Toledo Rockets would love nothing better than a Week 1 road win. The Rockets have three home games after this: Texas Southern, San Jose State, and Western Michigan.

The Rockets are looking to be the class of the MAC-West once again in 2023. A season ago, the Rockets won with consistency. The Rockets scored 31.3 points per game and allowed 25.5.

The Rockets return their star quarterback Dequan Finn. The redshirt junior threw for more than 2,220 yards and 23 touchdowns a season ago. Toledo will look to improve upon his 12 interceptions and 19 sacks but take the good with the bad. Finn will also see his top two targets in Jerjuan Newton and Devin Maddox return.

Those two combined for nearly 1400 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Jacquez Stuart returns as well, and he led the team with 134 carries and 770 yards on the ground.

Illinois Starting with no Gimme

The Fighting Illini need to be careful. After reaching a bowl game a season ago, expectations are higher, and the start for the Orange and Blue is not an easy one. The Illini have this one, then a road trip to Kansas, before hosting Penn State in Week 3.

Illinois was the best defensive team in all of College Football a season ago. The Illini allowed teams to score just 12.3 points per game on them.

Returning to the defense in 2023 are defensive ends Jer’Zhan Newton and Keith Randolph Jr. The Illini will miss leading tackler Isaac Darkangelo and Jartavius Martin, along with Sidney Brown from a season ago.

On the offensive side, Luke Altmyer comes in and takes over the offense under center. He will replace Tommy DeVito of a season ago. One of the top rushers in the country in Chase Brown is also gone. He finished with 1,643 yards and ten touchdowns.

Reggie Love III will take over the role. He got 71 carries a season ago. It will be an interesting adjustment for an Illini team missing many key pieces.

Rockets Compete on the Road

The Toledo Rockets are no pushover. The Rockets are a team that will be able to match up a bit with the Fighting Illini. For Illinois, this is a game you simply cannot lose to start the season.

At home, against a MAC team – this is one you need to win. Look for the Illini to pull out a win, albeit pretty ugly. In the end, the Rockets cover the spread on the road.

Bet the Toledo Rockets +9.5 over the Fighting Illini. Our final score prediction is the Fighting Illini 27-21 over the Toledo Rockets on Saturday.

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