Illinois and Nebraska each are coming off a first win of the 2020 season — the Illini by defeating Rutgers and the Cornhuskers by holding off Penn State. One of these teams will earn its first win streak of the campaign today as Illinois and Nebraska kick off at 11 a.m. in Lincoln, Neb.
Continue to follow along all afternoon with beat writer Colin Likas, who will provide updates remotely as the teams battle it out at the Cornhuskers' Memorial Stadium.
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Brandon Peters is getting the call at quarterback, according to 247sports' Jeremy Werner.
Peters is available today after missing the last three games with a positive COVID-19 test. He started in Illinois' season opener against Wisconsin, and Isaiah Williams also received some repetitions.
Williams broke out in last week's win at Rutgers, making his first collegiate start and later earning Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors. Illinois offensive coordinator Rod Smith said earlier this week he wanted to keep Williams involved in the Illini attack regardless of who starts at QB.
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Out at Nebraska— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) November 21, 2020
TE D. Imatorbhebhe
Status changes between RUT and NEB games— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) November 21, 2020
DL Avery (out → available)
DB Marchese (out → available)
DL Mondesir (out → available)
TE Moore (out → available)
QB Peters (out → available)
DL Woods (out → available)
OL Palczewski (played → out)
DL Randolph (played → out)
Defensive lineman Jamal Woods is back in the fold for Illinois after missing the last two games with injury. That's especially good news since Keith Randolph Jr. is out from that unit after being injured last week.
Also sidelined is offensive lineman Alex Palczewski, who went down early in the win over Rutgers with a right leg injury. Danville product Julian Pearl is likely to receive his first collegiate start as a result.
And linebacker Milo Eifler also is out for a second consecutive game. The trio of Jake Hansen, Khalan Tolson and Tarique Barnes is likely to fill out the linebacker unit today.
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We wait to see if Jamal Woods can return to the Illini defensive line today after missing the last two games with injury. Regardless, the Cornhuskers won't be completely healthy in that unit.
Junior D-lineman Deontre Thomas is out for today's game, according to the Omaha World-Herald's Sam McKewon. Thomas played in all of Nebraska's games last season and has seen time this year in two of its three contests.
Fellow junior Jordon Riley will fill in on the line, according to McKewon.
Nebraska's roster has suffered another blow as well, with KLKN TV's Andrew Ward reporting that Cornhuskers running back Dedrick Mills is not in uniform. Mills was the Cornhuskers' leading rusher last season and started in Nebraska's first three games this year.
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Something will have to give from an offensive perspective when Illinois and Nebraska meet. Neither team has blown the doors off their opponents thus far, as the Illini average 17 points per game and the Cornhuskers 22 points per outing.
One area of apparent advantage for Illinois is in the run game. Nebraska's two leading rushers are its quarterbacks, Luke McCaffrey (196 yards) and Adrian Martinez (187). None of the Cornhuskers' actual running backs have accounted for triple-digit yards across the team's first three games.
That's a statistic both Mike Epstein and Chase Brown have posted in single games this year. Brown (247 yards), Esptein (225) and quarterback Isaiah Williams (197) key a ground game that erupted last week against Rutgers.
On the passing front, both sides have an obvious standout. Illinois' Josh Imatobhebhe has brought in 11 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown, while Nebraska's Wan'Dale Robinson has snagged 15 passes for 92 yards.
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Can Lovie Smith's fifth Illini team become the first in the program's history since 1924 to earn a win in Lincoln? If so, it'd end a four-game losing streak against the Cornhuskers. The last time Illinois knocked off Nebraska at any location was in 2015, when the Illini collected a 14-13 victory at their own Memorial Stadium.
Since then, Nebraska has produced points seemingly at will whenever it takes on Illinois. The Cornhuskers are averaging 38.75 points per contest against the Illini over the last four matchups, including outputs of 54 and 42 points in the last two meetings.
Quarterback Adrian Martinez played a big role in those totals, but he may not get the start today for the Cornhuskers. Luke McCaffrey took the reigns last week against Penn State and gave Nebraska a boost both with his arm and legs. How will Nebraska coach Scott Frost proceed with his quarterback situation?
It's a question facing Smith as well. Brandon Peters is available for the first time since the Week 1 loss to Wisconsin, missing the last three games because of a positive COVID-19 test. Isaiah Williams made his first collegiate start last week against Rutgers and succeeded to the tune of Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors.
Looking for a little more insight as to what you might be able to expect during today's game? Check out our gameday preview and gameday Q&A, produced by Likas and Bob Asmussen, respectively.
The Illini are seeking their first victory in Lincoln, Neb., since 1924 — as well as revenge for last year's heartbreaking 42-38 loss to the Cornhuskers in Champaign — when they make a stop in Nebraska for Saturday's 11 a.m. kickoff.
The reigning Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week will look to convert more big kicks on Saturday at Nebraska
All of the Illinois football coverage you'll need will be right here at IlliniHQ.com. With kickoff still several hours away, catch up on what you might have missed from our coverage this week.
Asmussen: Who is playing QB? And which team starts a streak?
Illinois football looks for its first winning streak of the season Saturday at Nebraska. If Lovie Smith’s team pulls it off, it will be the school’s first win in Lincoln, Neb., since 1924. Here’s what I am thinking before the 11 a.m. kickoff at the other Memorial Stadium:
➜ 1. First things first: Who is going to be the Illinois starting quarterback? Isaiah Williams just had the best rushing game for a quarterback in school history. And the Illini won. But Brandon Peters is eligible to play again after getting COVID-19 and sitting the last three games. Go with the senior.
➜ 2. Certainly, Peters will be eager to get back on the field. And based on what the Illini coaches said, he has continued to work on his game during quarantine. His last time out, a loss at Wisconsin, didn’t go very well. But I’m thinking that was more because of the Badgers’ stellar defense and some breakdowns by the Illinois offense. Peters didn’t have much of a chance.
More from Bob Asmussen
Washington keeps his head in the game for Illini receiving corps
CHAMPAIGN — Each of Casey Washington’s catches last Saturday carried an individual story.
It’s not always the case. A receiver might haul in a lone, quiet reception or numerous nondescript passes in any given week.
The Illinois sophomore, however, put together an interesting performance in the Illini’s 23-20 victory at Rutgers despite not collecting his first catch until the third quarter.
Washington’s three catches for 52 yards paced Illinois’ receiving corps and played an important role in the Illini’s first win this season.