The undefeated Chattanooga Mocs take to the road this week to face the University of Illinois Fighting Illini. It will be the Mocs’ first, and only, Power 5 opponent this season.
Despite being an FCS team, Chattanooga played well last year against the top-25 Kentucky Wildcats, losing just 28-23. They forced Kentucky’s projected first-round pick Will Levis to throw 2 interceptions in that game.
Chattanooga has beaten Wofford 31-0, Eastern Illinois 38-20 and North Alabama 41-14 so far this season.
The Fighting Illini have already played two Power 5 battles this year, losing to Indiana and beating Virginia. They also defeated Wyoming 38-6 to in Week 0.
Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, September 22.
Chattanooga vs. Illinois Week 4 College Football Betting Picks
Can Chase Brown Continue to Shoulder the Load?
If there’s a single player that could change the outcome of this game it is Illinois’ starting running back Chase Brown.
Brown, a transfer from Western Michigan, is now in his fourth season with the Fighting Illini.
Luckily for the Illini, Brown is off to an electric start. He has amassed 496 rushing yards through just three games and is averaging a career-best 6.6 yards per carry. Brown has eclipsed 145 yards in all of those games and even reached 199 yards on the ground in the team’s 23-20 loss to Indiana.
Illinois has accomplished the rare feat of having more rushing yards than passing yards so far this season. Their running game has been lifted by the help of their offensive line, where they returned their center and both starting tackles.
Chattanooga’s rush defense has yet to allow more than 100 yards in a game. However, they gave up 123.8 rushing yards per game last season despite allowing just four rushing touchdowns.
The Mocs would do well to let Brown get his yards on the ground, but tighten up when Illinois’ reaches the red zone. That strategy was a recipe for success for Indiana in their win against the Illini.
Keeping Brown in check will ultimately be the deciding factor if the underdog Mocs are going to stay close in this game.
Can Chattanooga’s Offense Find a Way to Get in the End Zone?
The Fighting Illini defense has been another one of their strengths this season. Illinois is allowing just 10.7 points per game, which is the 15th-lowest points allowed among FBS schools.
Chattanooga is going to have to find some way to get in to the endzone. Indiana was able to exploit Illinois through the air, and the Mocs should be able to find some success there as well.
Chattanooga is averaging 251 passing yards per game. 6-foot-2 senior quarterback Preston Hutchinson has been their team leader despite taking over for successful veteran Cole Copeland, who led them against the top-25 ranked Kentucky Wildcats a year ago.
Running back AilymHe will have to continue his success and complement the passing attack against Illinois.
Chattanooga vs Illinois Prediction
Chattanooga has won every game this season by multiple scores, but with a quarterback that doesn’t have much experience against Power 5 opponents it is difficult to gauge their strength coming into this matchup. The Mocs’ did hang with Kentucky and brought back many players from that close battle.
With the success that a conference like the Sun Belt’s has had against the spread versus conferences like Texas A&M and Notre Dame, it’s hard to overlook this lopsided spread here.
Illinois beat up on Virginia with a struggling quarterback Brennan Armstrong. I don’t love what Illinois’ offense has been able to do. They have really only dominated Wyoming, but the Cowboys are 2-2 and allowed Tulsa to put up 37 points against them.
This will be the most high-profile game for Chattanooga this season. I expect them to come out with a strong effort like they did last against Kentucky in 2021. I think that this spot presents solid value and I will take the Mocs to cover against a lower-tier Big Ten side.
Best NCAAF Bet: Chattanooga +18.0 (-110) at DraftKings | Playable to +17.5 (-110)