The Maryland Terrapins (2-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) kick off their Big Ten schedule against the Illinois Fighting Illini (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS) in Champaign, Ill. on Friday night (9 p.m., FS1).
It’s been a promising start for the Terps, who dropped West Virginia (-2.5) as an underdog before convincingly handling FCS foe Howard. Meanwhile, the Illini have stumbled twice — vs. UTSA and at Virginia — after opening their campaign by knocking off favored Nebraska.
Online sportsbooks price Maryland as a 7- to 7.5-point favorite, with a total of 60.5 on most oddsboards.
This will be the first meeting between the two programs since 2018, when the Terrapins won, 63-33.
Terrapins Cleared For Take Off
Junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa has been up to the task for the Terrapins over the season’s first two games. West Virginia and Howard won’t be confused for juggernauts, but Tagovailoa has played mistake-free football nonetheless. He’s completed 76.2 percent of his passes and thrown six touchdowns to zero interceptions.
He’s found success targeting his top two receivers — senior Dontay Demus Jr. and sophomore Rakim Jarrett. Both have hauled in 12 grabs and two touchdowns on the season.
Illinois has allowed teams to experience success moving the ball through the air. They surrendered 232 yards to Nebraska and 280 to UTSA before being gashed by Virginia to the tune of 423. The Illini D only has six sacks and one interception — on 107 pass attempts — to its credit. The struggles through the air figure to continue if they can’t punish teams for dropping back to pass against them.
Tagovailoa and Co. will be busy if these trends continue.
Welcome Back Party
Starting quarterback Brandon Peters will return after being forced out of action with a Week 1 injury to his non-throwing shoulder. Peters was 3-for-4 for 35 yards before exiting the contest and being replaced by sophomore Artur Sitkowski.
The sixth-year senior won the job out of camp and provides veteran experience that head coach Bret Bielema values. Bielema, however, was complimentary of the job Sitkowski performed in relief.
Bielema: “It wasn’t anything he did or didn’t do well. He played extremely well, especially the way he first entered the game going back to the Nebraska game. I thought the guys really did a nice job rallying around him and did some good things. But I told him if the roles were reversed and he were the starter and was knocked out of the game and BP came in, we’d do the exact same thing 100 times over.”
Sitkowski threw for 611 yards with a 6-to-1 TD/INT ratio, but Illinois finished 0-2 in his two starts
- Open — Maryland -9, O/U 59.5
- Circa — Maryland -7, -280
- BetMGM, Caesars, FanDuel, DraftKings — Maryland -7.5
- Total — 60.5
There’s still a lot to learn about these teams. Illinois played its last two games with a backup quarterback, and Maryland’s second victory came against an overmatched FCS foe.
Since opening Maryland -9 in Las Vegas, the line has shifted toward underdog Illinois. As of Tuesday, most shops are showing Maryland -7.5, but one exception is market-making Circa, which has Maryland priced at the key number of -7.
With Maryland priced in the -300 range on the moneyline, prospective Terrapins backers will want to exercise caution laying that big a number. Circa’s -280 is the best moneyline price on the favorite as of Tuesday, a number patient Maryland bettors may find at their shops later in the week.