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Illinois vs. Miami (Ohio): Preview and Predictions

The facts: 11 a.m. Saturday, BTN, 560-AM.

The records: Illinois 2-1, 0-0 Big Ten; Miami 0-3, 0-0 MAC.

The line: Illinois by 25.

The story line: How to put this delicately? Miami’s offense is an abomination. Statistically, it’s the worst unit in the country, flailing its way to 149.3 yards per game. Last week at home against Cincinnati — a team Illinois beat 45-17 — the RedHawks were shut out. In earlier action, they scored seven points against Kentucky and somehow hung 14 on Marshall … while getting steamrolled defensively in both of those games.

So, yeah, this is an opportunity for Illinois’ struggling defense to have some real success. Coordinator Tim Banks is dying to see some big plays out of his guys. Coach Tim Beckman would love nothing more than an interception or two from his young cornerbacks.

A complete, dominant effort on both sides of the ball before Big Ten play gets underway — is that too much to ask for?

Uh-oh: The Illini are 11-21 coming off bye weeks since byes became a regular thing in the mid-1980s. And this is just crazy: They’ve dropped 10 straight in that scenario. What the heck does it mean? Nothing good. But there’s nothing to worry about in this game.

The RedHawks in a nutshell: “Two weeks ago at [Kentucky] we were struggling, really, to make a first down. So at least we’re making improvement in terms of being able to put a few big plays up and move the ball at times.” Who said that? Miami coach Don Treadwell. When did he say that? Two days after the Cincinnati game, in which the RedHawks were even worse offensively than they’d been against Kentucky. Someone needs to remind Treadwell that his offense produced a total of four first downs and 87 yards against the Bearcats. Come to think of it, that would just be cruel.

Five predictions:

1. Miami will set a new season high in points. Of course, all it’ll take is 15 of them to do that — or fewer than half the 34 Southern Illinois scored on the Illini.

2. Illini true freshman quarterback Aaron Bailey will throw his first pass of the season. Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit has an expanded package of plays this week for Bailey, who thus far has only run the ball. Bailey might also get a chance to do something less conventional (catch the ball?) via a trick play.

3. An Illini cornerback will intercept a pass for the first time this season. These guys have gotten smoked through three games, for the most part. One of them — V’Angelo Bentley, Eaton Spence, Darius Mosely, Jaylen Dunlap — will make a big play.

4. For a change, there’ll be a handful of chunk plays between the tackles for Illinois running backs Josh Ferguson and Donnovon Young. Miami’s defensive front is subpar. The same could be said about the Illini’s run-blocking to date, but the o-line’s sheer size will be a factor in this matchup.

5. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase will have a bounce-back performance. The senior completed only 36 percent of his throws in the loss to Washington last time out. Look for him to be back at around 70 percent against a defense that doesn’t rush the passer well.

Greenberg’s pick: Illinois, 48-21.