Illinois had one of the nation's top defenses a year ago. Toledo could present a test in opener

Toledo (0-0) at Illinois (0-0), Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)

Line: Illinois by 9.5, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: First meeting.


Illinois wants to start strong after losing four of its final five games last season, tarnishing an 8-5 record that ended a streak of 10 straight losing seasons. Toledo, the defending Mid-American Conference champion, wants to justify its preseason hype as the favorite to win the MAC West Division. The Rockets were 9-5 last year.


Illinois defense vs. Toledo's balanced offense. The Illini had the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation last season (12.8 points allowed per game) but it will get a stout test from a dangerous Toledo offense led by QB Dequan Finn, who threw for 2,260 yards and 23 touchdowns and ran for 631 yards and nine TDs last season. Finn was 10-for-19 for 153 yards and two TDs against Ohio State. The Rockets have a strong offensive line with several returnees from last season. The Illini had the third-ranked overall defense a year ago, giving up 273.5 yards per game.


Toledo: RB Jacquez Stuart is the Rockets’ top rusher. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry last season while running for 770 yards and 4 TDs. He had 111 yards rushing in Toledo’s win over Liberty in the Boca Raton Bowl.

Illinois: DT Jer’Zhan Newton is one of the top players in the country. He was a second team All-American last season (62 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks). He is also the brother of Toledo All-MAC WR Jerjuan Newton.


Toledo is 6-15 all-time vs. the Big Ten. ... The Rockets’ most recent win over a Big Ten foe came against Purdue in 2010 ... Illinois returns 10 All-Big Ten players ... Toledo returns 16 starters, including seven All-MAC selections ... The Rockets’ stingy secondary is led by cornerback Quinyon Mitchell, who was the national leader last season with 1.8 passes defended per game (20 breakups, five interceptions). ... Toledo is bidding to become the first team to win back-to-back MAC titles since Northern Illinois in 2011-12. ... The Rockets haven’t repeated as MAC champs since their run of three in a row from 1969-71.


AP college football: and