Illinois Football: Are the Illini Looking but Overlooking the Indiana Hoosiers?
The latest buzz among Illinois fans is the way their schedule is laying out for them in the future—more specifically the next 12 games.
In the Illini's remaining six games this year and first six games next year—excluding a possible bowl game this season—they face no opponent currently ranked in the Top 25.
This can only bring out positives vibes from the fans and players, knowing that winning a large portion of these games is possible if they play to their full potential.
But, before everyone decides to look that far ahead, I think it is important that Illinois take it week-by-week, game-by-game, which begins with Indiana.
It would mean nothing more to the Hoosiers (4-2) to come into Champaign and ruin homecoming week, with an upset against an upstart Illini team.
And if Illinois overlooks the Hoosiers, that is exactly what is going to happen.
Homecoming is known as a week to show off school spirit and have a fun time. Students have various activities during the week, and there is a large excitement heading into the game.
Yet, I have not always looked at homecoming as being a great week for football players. There is always a concern of whether or not the players will attain full concentration during practice.
I am afraid that Illinois may come out flat against Indiana, but to college players, homecoming does not have the meaning it does in high school, therefore that complication is still not my biggest fear heading into the weekend.
Illinois' biggest strength on the defensive side is stopping the run, and Indiana has arguably the strongest passing attack they will go up against all season.
The last time Illinois went against a strong passing attack was its season opener vs. Missouri.
The defense held its ground only giving up 23 points, but Missouri's quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, still produced impressive stats, completing 34 of 48 (70.8%) passes for 281 yards and zero interceptions.
Indiana's senior quarterback Ben Chappell comes into Champaign as the 20th ranked quarterback in the nation, averaging 309.7 passing yards per game. He has 16 touchdowns, three interceptions and is completing a remarkable 68.7% of his passes.
If Illinois wants to win, it is necessary for them to contain Chappell and hold them to a low amount of points.
Now as for Illinois, its offense has gone through many struggles this season, and it has been very inconsistent every week. They are only managing to put up 21.3 points per game, which ranks 92nd in the nation.
They are facing a defense that has struggled this season, giving up 28.7 points per contest, and if Illinois wants to win, they must either not give up many points on defense, or their offense must produce bigger numbers.
That all that being said, I ultimately believe the outcome of the game will likely come down to Chappell's performance.
If the Illini offense continues its struggles and the defense is not able to stop Chappell, it is possible for the Hoosiers to dominate the Illini.
Chappell, standing at 6'3", 239 pounds, is having the best year of his career and is looking to take the Hoosiers to a bowl game for the second time since 1993.
The Hoosiers come into this game two wins away from being bowl eligible, knowing that a win is critical, because their schedule becomes difficult from this point on.
After Illinois, Indiana has games vs. Northwestern, vs. Iowa, at Wisconsin, vs. Penn State and at Purdue.
If the Hoosiers can pick up a victory against the Illini, they will have momentum going into a winnable game at home against Northwestern.
So, if you don't understand my point yet, this is a huge game for Indiana in their search for a bowl game, and they will certainly be aware of that as they face Illinois.
I expect this to be a tougher game for the Illini than many people expect, but I think the defense will continue to look impressive, and Illinois will come out with a victory, putting them at 4-3—making them one game closer to the ultimate goal: a bowl game.
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