Texas State (1-1) at Illinois (2-1) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Memorial Stadium (60,670) -- Champaign, Illinois. Television: ESPNews. Home Record: TSU 1-1, Illinois 2-0. Away Record: TSU 0-0, Illinois 0-1. Neutral Record: TSU 0-0, Illinois 0-0. Conference Record: TSU 0-0, Illinois 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Coming off their first loss of the season, the Illinois Fighting Illini will try to recover when they entertain the Texas State Bobcats at Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Illini traveled to Seattle last weekend to face Chris Petersen and the Washington Huskies. The trip was a depressing one for the Big Ten squad, as the Illini were routed in a 44-19 final. They are now 2-1 on the campaign with wins over Youngstown State (28-17) and Western Kentucky (42-34) coming prior to the loss to the Huskies.
Texas State has split its first two games with a 65-0 thrashing of FCS foe Arkansas-Pine Bluff and a 35-21 setback at home against Navy. This is the Bobcats' first game away from San Marcos this year, and their first-ever against Illinois.
Like many teams with a small sampling of games, Texas State's offensive numbers are a bit misleading right now. The Bobcats are technically averaging 43 points and 569.5 yards per game, but they had 442 yards of total offense against Navy, compared to 697 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Tyler Jones has been rather consistent under center, however, completing 73.8 percent of his throws for 509 yards and five scores to just one interception. He tallied 231 yards on 24-of-36 passing against Navy, although his efficiency rating was more than 100 points below the 230.2 effort he had against UAPB. Jones is not just a passer, as he can take off and pick up yards on the ground as well. He had 82 yards rushing against Navy, upping his total to 133 on the year.
Robert Lowe (242 yards, two TDs) is the team's starting running back and provides a steady force in the backfield. After rumbling for 150 yards and a score on 14 carries against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, he picked up 92 yards and another touchdown on 16 carries against Navy. Lowe also has added 62 yards on six receptions, ranking third on the team in each category.
Jafus Gaines and Bradley Miller are the top receiving threats. Gaines has 174 yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions, although most of that came against UAPB (four receptions, 119 yards, two TDs). Miller snared a team-high seven passes for 62 yards against Navy.
On defense, the Bobcats have only allowed 35 total points, but all of those came last weekend against Navy. The Bobcats also have permitted a total of 684 yards in the first two games, as well as 31 first downs (half as many as they have picked up), and just seven second-half points.
David Mayo (25 tackles) has been the real standout for the unit, as the only player on the roster with more than 11 tackles in the first two games. He is currently third in the Sun Belt Conference in tackles per game (12.5).
Illinois is right in the middle of the Big Ten when it comes to offense. It is tied for seventh in scoring offense (29.7 ppg), while ranking eighth in total yards (411.3 ypg).
Unfortunately, the Illini missed both of those marks against Washington, finishing with only 351 total yards and 15 first downs, while turning the ball over three times. They were also a miserable 1-of-11 on third down.
Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt had his worst game of the season against Washington. He still completed 16-of-26 passes for 230 yards and two scores. However, he was sacked four times and intercepted once. His completion percentage and yardage total were season-lows. Overall, he has racked up 971 yards and nine touchdowns, compared to only two picks, on 65.8 percent passing.
Lunt's step backward had no effect on Geronimo Allison, who turned in his best game of the season, grabbing six passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns. He leads the team in both receptions (16) and receiving yards (300). Mike Dudek is the club's second option, tallying 159 yards and two scores on 12 grabs.
Josh Ferguson (126 yards, TD) and Donovonn Young (106 yards, TD) have shared the load out of the backfield, although neither has been particularly effective. As a team, the Illini are averaging just 2.6 yards per carry.
There is certainly work to be done on offense, but the UI defense might be the real work in progress. The Illini have let up an average of 31.7 points per game, while ranking 11th in the Big Ten in total defense (414.7 ypg). If there has been a strong point it has been the play in the red zone, where the unit has allowed just six touchdowns in 12 tries.
Mason Monheim (31 tackles) is the first player on the team to reach 30 tackles, but only one of those has come for a loss. Taylor Barton (29 tackles, INT) has been a force in the secondary.
Lunt and Allison makes the Illini passing attack a dangerous one. That should be especially true against an unproven Texas State defense. Expect a bounce- back win for Illinois before the Big Ten slate gets underway.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois 35, Texas State 23Game Date and Time
Saturday, September 20, 4 p.m. (ET)