The Daily Illini sports staff makes predictions ahead of Illinois football’s matchup with Charlotte


Cameron Krasucki

Offensive linebacker Seth Coleman and linebacker Jake Hansen tackle their Maryland opponent during the game at Memorial Stadium Sept. 17. The Daily Illini sports staff makes predictions ahead of the Illini’s matchup with Charlotte.

Jackson Janes: Illinois 24, Charlotte 21

This isn’t going to be pretty, but I think the Illini are going to do just enough to snap their four-game losing streak and take down the visiting Charlotte 49ers at home this weekend. Illinois is 11-point favorites, but I don’t have faith it its ability to cover that point spread, especially given the uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position.

Chase Brown is returning this week, but Josh McCray has looked like a force to be reckoned with this season. Having that two-headed monster in the backfield is a cheat code, and the Illini will have to take full advantage of that tandem against a 49er defense that has struggled with defending the run this season.

This game is going to be close for all 60 minutes, but Illinois escapes with a three-point win via a long James McCourt field goal.

Wes Hollenberg: Illinois 27, Charlotte 17

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I’d take the Illini beating Charlotte, 27-17. While they’ve gone winless in the past month, the defense has stepped up in a big way the past couple weeks. Last week was the group’s best effort so far, as they held Purdue to just 13 points. Illinois’ starting quarterback is up in the air, which brings some uncertainty and volatility to predicting the matchup.

However, the Illini seem to finally have an established ground game behind Josh McCray. Charlotte doesn’t have a great run defense, so regardless of who gets the nod at quarterback, the Illini have a reasonable chance to pull ahead if the defense can keep up their hot streak.

Will Payne: Illinois 20, Charlotte 14

Coming off their fourth straight loss, the Illini are back at Memorial Stadium this week for a bout with the Charlotte 49ers. The Illini currently sit at 1-4 on the year, and this will be a fantastic opportunity to get back in the win column.

Charlotte comes into this matchup with a record of 3-1. The 49ers quarterback Chris Reynolds has been a game-changer so far this season, putting up some stellar numbers. 

During the team’s 41-38 win against Middle Tennessee, Reynolds threw four passing touchdowns, which is now their school record, and 339 passing yards. If Illinois wants any chance in this game, they’ll need the defense to step up.

Brandon Peters will likely start again at quarterback for Illinois, and I think he’ll have a bounce-back game. Charlotte’s offense will keep them in the game, but I think the Illini are too talented for the 49ers.

Josh Pietsch: Illinois 27, Charlotte 17

Yes, I think Illinois will top Charlotte at home on Saturday. This season hasn’t been pretty so far, but the Illini have been able to keep it close against a 4-0 UTSA team, Maryland’s strong offense and against Purdue on the road. Charlotte isn’t as good as any of those teams.

The 49ers did top a Power-5 team in their first game of the season, with that win coming against Duke, but the Blue Devils don’t have an impressive win on their resume. Quarterback Chris Reynolds has been effective through the air and on the ground this season, which should keep the Illini defense on its toes all game.

I still like the Illini, though, for a couple of reasons. Illinois is getting back running back Chase Brown, and linebacker Jake Hansen and defensive back Devon Witherspoon are both trending in the right direction. The Illini also are hungry for a win after four straight losses, and a break from conference play may be just what they need. All signs point to Brandon Peters starting again for the Illini, so this could be a game for him to rebuild some confidence and find the end zone for the first time this year. If he doesn’t, my prediction may end up being very incorrect.

Claire O’Brien: Illinois 30, Charlotte 27

Illinois comes into Saturday’s game having lost four consecutive games, most recently against Purdue. Saturday’s matchup against Charlotte appears to be the most winnable game left for the Illini this season. Charlotte narrowly defeated Middle Tennessee State last weekend.

But Charlotte is averaging 30 points per game to Illinois’ 20, and Charlotte is, on average, giving up 24.3 points while Illinois gives up 26.8. While the game is winnable for Illinois, snapping that losing streak isn’t going to be easy.