Illinois Football: Can They Avenge Last-Second Loss To Fresno State?

Dan WelinCorrespondent IDecember 1, 2010

Mikel Leshoure and the Fighting Illini want to avenge last year's loss to Fresno State.
Mikel Leshoure and the Fighting Illini want to avenge last year's loss to Fresno State.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

WHEN: FRIDAY @ 10:15 ET

TV: ESPN2

Last season, when these two teams met in Champaign, the Fresno State Bulldogs converted a two point conversion by an offensive lineman to come from behind and stun the Fighting Illini 53-52.

Fresno State finished the regular season 8-4 and went to a bowl game. Illinois finished an awful season with a record of 3-9 and watched the bowl games at home.

This season, Fresno State is looking to beat the Fighting Illini in their final game to finish 8-4 for the second straight year.

Illinois is a completely different story. 

They are 6-5 and have already secured bowl eligibility.

When they head west this week to play the Bulldogs, last season’s loss and the chance to finish the season 7-5 will be their motivation to win.

Mikel Leshoure, one of six Illini that were named All-Big Ten by coaches and media, leads Illinois out of their bye week. He is coming off a record setting 330 yard performance against Northwestern at Wrigley field two weeks ago.

Leshoure only needs 311 yards to set school records in what is expected to be the final two games for the Illini.

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The Fresno State defense currently allows 139.9 rushing yards a game.

After the loss to Minnesota and the victory against Northwestern, the Fighting Illini must realize that Mikel Leshoure needs to get the ball a lot. So expect offensive coordinator Paul Petrino to make sure his star running back gets his fair share of carries.

This matchup should be a close one: Illinois currently has a 1-2 record in “true” road games, but including the two neutral sites games (Missouri & Northwestern) the Illini are 2-3 in road games this season.

Friday night’s game has Illinois traveling roughly 2,000 miles. 

This road game will be a test of their ability to play two time zones over and see how they handle a tough crowd in the San Joaquin Valley at Bulldog Stadium.

Last time Illinois traveled to the state of California to play football, they got worked by USC in the Rose Bowl.

This season Illinois will prove that they can play well on the road.

The Fighting Illini will avenge last season’s loss and beat the Bulldogs to finish their season 7-5.

BOLD PREDICTION: ILLINOIS 38…FRESNO STATE 31