The University of Illinois returns to the grid iron again this fall to try and bounce back from last year’s disappointing season that included highs like the smashing of Indiana and the lows with the loss to Western Michigan at Detroit. Zook may start to feel his seat warm a little if he can’t get a .500 or better season, but I am sure that the Illini Nation is holding out for something closer to an 8-4 or 9-3 season. Here is the prediction from an Illini that will live and breathe each and every up and down this season.
Sept 5 – Missouri (@ St. Louis)
The Illini and Tigers meet for the third year in a row to fight for the Arch Rivalry trophy once more. The Tigers will be much weak after losing their leading quarterback, wide receiver, and others. The Illini come back with one of the top receiving corps in the country, a quarterback ranked in the top 10 by Sporting News, an emerging running game, and a defense that wants to prove it is here and can stop drives. The Zou has no chance.
My Prediction: Illini tie up Tigers (42-21)
Sept 12 – Illinois State
Illinois plays its one FCS against an instate school and will have no trouble taking them down. Not going to spend a lot of time on this one.
Prediction: Illinois over the Redbirds (35-7)
Sept 19 – Bye
Sept 26 – Ohio State (@ Columbus, OH)
The Illini march back to Columbus and try to repeat the 2007 stunner and give the Buckeyes a Big Ten loss. The last few times that Illinois beat the Bucks it was at “the shoe” so this should be a good game. This could be one of the make or break games for the Illini this season and it is Illinois’ Big Ten opener. I see both teams battling hard and it being close. Don’t be surprised if the Illini wear the blue or orange pants with the white jersey. Benn, Hoomanawanui, Cumberland, Fayson, Ford, I. Williams, LeShoure, and Dufrene fight hard for the offense and Wilson, Brent, Liuget, Bussey, Bellamy, and the defense all step up to battle the Bucks. Illinois either just wins or just loses.
Prediction: Too close to call. Most likely an Ohio State win.
Oct 3 – Penn State
Illinois returns from a hard fought game against the Buckeyes but come home to face the Lions of Penn State and Joe Pa’s bad men. The Illini are looking for some revenge after the Lions’ “white out” win at Beaver Stadium. The receiving attack gets into the weak Penn State secondary and pulls out a needed win.
Prediction: Illini tame the Lions (27-17)
Oct 10 – Michigan State
The Spartans get back on the Illini schedule after two years and that will not stop the Illini. Without Ringer, the Spartans have no chance of continuing long drives against the Illini D that is starting to prove itself and gets into the groove. Sparty will cry as Illinois makes it a two win streak against the Spartans and continues its march up the rankings (nearing top 20s).
Prediction: Illini spear the Spartans (37-20)
Oct 17 – Indiana (@ Bloomington, IN)
The Hoosiers want to try and keep Lynch from losing his job but the Illini return to town to ruin his plans. The new Indiana Memorial Stadium is no where near full even though it is a big rivalry game. Indiana hasn’t improved enough to fight last years beat down. Illini running back emerge and receivers continue to dominate behind Juice with Benn and Fayson both getting a couple TDs.
Prediction: Illini roll over the Hoosiers (63-17)
Illinois is on the road to a possible Big Ten title or at worst a good start. The Illini could be between 4-2 (2-2) and 6-0 (4-0). We will just have to see where they can go.
I will pick up the second half of the season around the middle of September.