How Has Illinois Fared Against Spread Under Bret Bielema?

How Has Illinois Fared Against Spread Under Bret Bielema?
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

Illinois football head coach Bret Bielema’s successful track record against the spread will welcome optimism among Illinois sports betting backers and perhaps excitement for nationwide college football bettors in the upcoming season.

Since taking over with the Fighting Illini in 2021, Bielema has consistently maintained one of the highest cover percentages against the spread among all Big Ten head coaches. So Illinois has the potential to deliver value within one of the most competitive conferences for backers across the country.

Must be 21+ to participate. T&Cs apply.

Illinois Preseason Betting Odds

Under Bielema’s tenure, the program has steadily improved over the last two seasons. Following a 5-7 record in 2021, they finished 8-5 with a losing ReliaQuest Bowl appearance last season, making the Fighting Illini more of an appealing option for bettors next season if they continue to improve.

The Fighting Illini has one of the middle-tier football programs in the Big Ten as DraftKings Sportsbook is currently offering +3000 odds for Illinois to clinch the conference title, behind only Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin and Iowa.

And Bielema owns the best ATS record out of all head coaches’ tenures. Still, backers may also be curious about which other schools will likely cover the spread based on recent history.

Big Ten Coaches Against the Spread

TeamCoachATS RecordCover %
IllinoisBret Bielema15-9-162.5%
Minnesota PJ Fleck39-29-357.5%
Penn StateJames Franklin62-49-355.9%
Ohio StateRyan Day25-21-254.4%
IowaKirk Ferentz131-112-653.9%
MichiganJim Harbaugh51-46-252.6%
Michigan StateMel Tucker14-14-450%
RutgersGreg Schiano16-17-148.5%
IndianaTom Allen31-38-145%
MarylandMike Locksley19-2444.2%

Bielema Has Best ATS Record in League, your home for the best Illinois sportsbook promos, used records from to determine which Big Ten football coaches have the best record ATS.

For this list, only games from the coach’s current stint were included. Teams with new coaches entering the 2023 season – including Northwestern, the other Illinois team in the Big Ten – were not included. The Wildcats recently fired longtime coach Pat Fitzgerald in the wake of reports about a hazing scandal.

Getting back to Bielema, his Illinois team has successfully covered 62.5% of its games, the highest rate among all Big Ten schools under their current coaches. Bielema has covered the spread in 15 games, with only nine losses and one push.

Following Bielema for ATS success for Illinois betting apps users are: Minnesota’s PJ Fleck (57.5%), Penn State’s James Franklin (55.9%), Ohio State’s Ryan Day (54.4%), and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz (53.9%).

As the shortest-serving head coach in the Big Ten who is on this list, Bielema’s track record offers a relatively smaller sample size compared to his counterparts. But this is not unfamiliar territory for the 53-year-old. The former Wisconsin head coach was a three-time Big Ten conference winner from 2010-12 with the Badgers and earned the conference’s Coach of the Year award in 2006.

Illinois Projected Win Total

Bielema hopes to repeat similar success with the Fighting Illini. Illinois is projected at 6.5 over/under wins, an improvement from last season’s 4.5 mark, according to DraftKings. You can also catch their +25000 odds to win the national championship at Caesars Sportsbook Illinois if you relish extremely long-shot odds.

The Fighting Illini open their 2023-24 season on Sept. 2 against Toledo at home.

For the latest news and updates regarding the upcoming football season of the Fighting Illini, make sure to keep tabs with us at



Felix Veletanga is an experienced reporter who has covered local news, politics, and sports in Northern New Jersey, and now lends his expertise to the Illinois sports betting market. He previously covered the Saint Peter’s men’s basketball team’s 2022 NCAA Cinderella run for HudPost. Felix specializes in combat fighting and soccer betting analysis with a focus on the Premier League.

Cited by leading media organizations, such as: