Illinois Names Tommy DeVito Starting QB For Opener Vs. Wyoming – NBC Chicago

Wyoming (0-0) at Illinois (0-0), Saturday, 4 p.m. ET (BTN)

LINE: Illinois by 10.5, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

SERIES RECORD: First meeting.

LAST YEAR: Wyoming capped a 7-6 season with a victory in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, while Illinois went 5-7 in Bret Bielema’s first season in Champaign.

WHAT IS AT STAKE?

Bret Bielema announced on Thursday the transfer of Syracuse Tommy DeVito as the starting quarterback from Illinois. DeVito has a promising arm and the potential to bolster the offense under freshman coordinator Barry Lunney Jr., hired from UTSA after the Roadrunners embarrassed Bielema’s team last year. The Cowboys, happy to run, lost quarterbacks Sean Chambers and Levi Williams on the transfer portal and brought in Andrew Peasley from rival Utah State and Evan Svoboda from Snow College. The outcome could depend on which team the newcomers get into.

KEY MATCH

Illini defensive ends Keith Randolph and Johnny Newton could set the tone and shake up the Cowboys early if they can get into the backfield and speed up the quarterback. The Mountain West Conference visitors have two massive offensive tackles in 330-pound senior Eric Abojei and 315-pound Frank Crum, who have combined for 34 starts over the past two seasons.

KEY INJURIES

Wyoming lost defensive end Sabastian Harsh earlier this week to an unspecified season-ending injury. Running back Dawaiian McNeeley is also injured and receiver Gunner Gentry will miss his second straight season after suffering a knee injury in camp.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Wyoming’s Easton Gibbs trailed lone NFL draft pick Chad Muma in tackles (89) and tackles for loss (seven) as a redshirt rookie in 2021. … Illinois LB Tarique Barnes has emerged as a point guard in defense of Ryan Walters after forcing two fumbles, making 80 tackles and six tackles for loss last year. … WR Isaiah Williams has breakthrough potential as a passing option and with his legs. He led the Illini last fall with 47 receptions for 525 yards and four touchdowns.

FACTS AND FIGURES

Illinois RB Chase Brown averaged 5.9 yards per carry on 170 attempts in 2021, becoming the 14th 1,000-yard rusher in school history. … Wyoming RB Titus Swen also averaged 5.9 yards per carry in 2021. … Both players have been named to the Doak Walker Award watch list. … Wyoming enters as the third-youngest team in the Bowl Subdivision with 96 underclassmen on the roster, including 58 freshmen and redshirt freshmen. … Illinois fires six starters on each side of the ball. … Wyoming has bowled in four of the last six years. … The Cowboys seek the program’s second win against a Big Ten foe (Wyoming won 21-12 at Wisconsin in 1986). … Wyoming is targeting back-to-back wins over Power Five opponents after a 2019 win over Missouri.

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