Illinois football vs. Eastern Michigan: Time, TV schedule, game preview, score

Fighting Illini battle Eagles

AJ Bush #1 of the Illinois Fighting Illini runs the ball during the game against the Kent State Golden Flashes at Memorial Stadium on September 1, 2018 in Champaign, Illinois. Illinois defeated Kent State 31-24. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Oluwole Betiku Jr. will have Mike Glass III in his cross hairs Saturday when Illinois welcomes Eastern Michigan for a nonconference game. Betiku leads the FBS in sacks with five and tackles for loss with 6.5 as the Fighting Illini square off against Glass, who has been sacked three times this season, and the Eagles for the first time.

TV: Noon ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: Illinois -7

After a solid opener with six tackles and 1.5 sacks, Betiku burst onto the national scene with 3.5-sack performance against Connecticut and has helped put Illinois in position to enjoy its first 3-0 start since 2011. Betiku, who came to America from Nigeria as a sophomore in high school, was a five-star recruit and the fifteenth-ranked player in the country when he committed to USC, where he had a limited impact while playing 14 games over two seasons prior to announcing his intention to leave as a graduate transfer. "Right now, it isn't about sacks or numbers, it's about winning for me," the 6-3, 250-pound junior told the media. "I don't even count when I am on the field, I just play. I want to play in a big bowl game this year." After completing 90.9 percent of his passes and throwing for three touchdowns in the season opener, Glass came back to earth a bit in Central Michigan's 38-17 loss to Kentucky last week as he was intercepted twice and sacked twice while passing for 337 yards and two touchdowns.


Glass will likely have to carry the load again for the Eagles, who have struggled to run the ball, averaging 2.7 yards per carry this season, and won't have it any easier against the Fighting Illini, who rank seventh in the FBS with 37 yards allowed per game. The senior has spread the ball around, connecting with six receivers for at least five receptions each, led by Mathew Sexton (11 catches for 102 yards), Quian Williams (eight for 96 yards and one touchdown) and Dylan Drummond (eight for 92 yard and two scores). Glass will try to become the first quarterback to throw a touchdown pass this season against Illinois, which has allowed one rushing score.


Betiku isn't the only transfer enjoying early season success for coach Lovie Smith as quarterback Brandon Peters, receivers Josh Imatorbhebhe and Trevon Sidney, offensive lineman Richie Petitbon and linebacker Milo Eifler have shined in the two games. Peters, who attempted two passes at Michigan last season, has thrown for seven touchdowns and one interception, and Imatorbhebhe and Sidney - both from USC - have been two of his favorite targets with a combined 13 catches for 127 yards and three touchdowns. Eifler, from Washington, has recorded nine tackles while Petitbon (Alabama) has started at guard in both games.


1. Betiku's 3.5 sacks against UConn are the fifth-most in a game for the Fighting Illini and the most since Whitney Mercilus, who stars for the NFL's Houston Texans, had three at Indiana in 2011.

2. Eastern Michigan, which took down Rutgers in 2017 and Purdue last season, has the same number of wins over Big Ten teams in the last two seasons as Illinois.

3. Illinois is 28-6 in August and September games since the start of the 2007 season.

PREDICTION: Illinois 37, Eastern Michigan 23

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