Posted on: August 23, 2009 12:59 am
Say what???? Thats right.....Take this one to the bank, and if this isn't true you can call me at the end of the season, but the Illinois Illini are the only real threat to Penn State and Ohio State in the Big Ten. Yes, I know they just finished a 5-7 season, and yes I know who their coach is, but despite that they have the most favorable schedule in the Big Ten, and the best offense as well.
Last year was a tough one for the Illini. They were coming off of a Rose Bowl season, and had high expectations for the first time in a long time. Some people thought they would be able to challenge in the Big Ten, and be a top 15 team, but that never materialized, and they struggled to a 5-7 team.
From last year, the Illini return 13 starters, and they are once again led by QB Juice Williams. Last year, Juice took a step back, and despite throwing for 22 TD's he also threw 17 INT's....Expect the TD's to stay about the same, but the INT's to be about half from what it was last year. At RB they return Daniel Dufrene, and Jason Ford. Now, neither guy is as good as somebody like Rashard Mendenhall, but combined they rushed for nearly 1000 yards. Expect Jason Ford to really step up this season, and rush for nearly 1000 yards while Dufrene puts up similar numbers to what he did last season. Illinois also has one of the best group of WR's in the country. Arrelious 'Rejus' Benn is the best WR in the country this side of Dez Bryant, and is an absoloute freak of nature. Jeff Cumberland is solid, and Michael Hommanawanui is a solid TE, but the real story might be the arrival of UF transfer Jarred Fayson. He'll force teams to not double cover Arrelious 'Rejus' Benn, and allow Benn to get into the endzone more this season. One the Offensive Line they lose Xavier Fulton, and Ryan McDonald, but expect improvement from last season with 3 returning starters.
The defensive end is a little different story. On the Defensive Line they lose David Lindquist, Will Davis, and Derek Walker from last season, but they do return Josh Brent, and Doug Pilcher. Last year, Illinois struggled against the run, so they do needed improvement on the DL. At LB they lose leading tackler Britt Miller, but they do return Martez Wilson, who finally lived up to the hype last season. Expect Wilson to have another huge season. At DB they lose 1st Round Pick Vontae Davis, but despite this they return plenty of guys with experience, so even though they lose their top guy to the pros expect this unit to improve.
Also, last season Illinois had 27 starts missed because of injury, and were outgaining their opponents by an average of just over 85 yards a game...Not to mention the fact they should be able to limit the turnovers more this season.....All of these factor into them having a better season then last.
Now, the real reason that I see Illinois being this good is because of the schedule....They have a very favorable schedule, and should be able to go at the very least 5-3 in conference, while more likely going 6-2.
Here's how I see the team breaking week to week:
Sept 5th Missouri(St. Louis)-Missouri has won the last 2 games in this rivalry, but don't expect it this year. Missouri lost Chase Daniel, Tommy Saunders, Jeremy Maclin, and Chase Coffman from last year's team, and from what I've heard Blaine Gabbert is pretty much all hype. The defense probably won't improve even though they have a great group of LB's....Expect a 14-17 point from the Illini.
Sept 12th Illinois State-ISU is not a very good team, and with this game being at home, expect an Illini beatdown.
Sept 26th @Ohio State-This is probably the best time for any team to be playing this young Ohio State team, and that is in the begginning of conference play. The Buckeyes will still be young, and inexperienced in this game, but very talented. Last year, Illinois outgained Ohio State last season, but lost by 10. Expect this game to be closer, and it will come down to the end, although I do think that Ohio State pulls it out.
Oct 3rd Penn State-In my honest opinion, this is the game that Penn State is most likely to drop this season. It's on the road, they'll be coming off of a tough game, and it'll be Big Ten Home Opener for Illinois. Penn State has some major concerns in their secondary, and just like last season I expect Arrelious 'Rejus" Benn to burn them big time. This game could go either way.
Oct 10th Michigan State-I'm not buying into the MSU hype like everybody else it. Michigan State does have one of the best defenses in the Big Ten, but I think the offense will have some problems this year. I think that losing Hoyer will hurt more then they expect, and Ringer meant so much to that offense. This game should a lower scoring affair, but Illinois should be able to pull away in the 4th.
Oct 17th @Indiana-Perfect week for Illinois....They play 3 straight tough games, and get rewarded by playing the worst team in the Big Ten.
Oct 24th @Purdue-The Boilers aren't as bad as IU, but they're pretty bad as well. I do think this game should be close going into the 4th mainly because it's on the road, but Illinois should be able to win this one by 10-17 points. Expect a big day from Juice Williams, and the Illini Receiving Corps.
Oct 31st Michigan-teddydupay4's Wolverines should be able to improve this season, and not have the worst D1 QB ever behind center, but the offense will most likely have to play catch up with Illinois all day, and they aren't built for that.
Nov 7th @Minnesota-This is a huge trap game for Illini. I don't think that Minnesota will be that great next season, and even though they return a lot of starters with a much harder schedule they'll probably struggle more. Last season, Minnesota was able to take advantage of some Illini turnovers, and win despite giving up 550 yards of total offense. Minnesota should be able to put some points up, but I don't think they'll stop Illinois' offense. Close game here though, slight advantage to Illinois.
Nov 14th Northwestern-Last year the Wildcats were able to destroy Illinois' bowl hopes in the final game of the season, and win the rivalry game over the Illini. They return a fair amount from last year, and should be a bowl team again this season, although I do see a dropoff from last season. It's a rivalry game so anything could happen in this one, but Illinois should pull this one out at home.
Nov 27th @Cincinnati-Last year the Bearcats played in arguably the most boring BCS bowl game ever losing to Virginia Tech 20-7. The Bearcats lose a lot from the defensive side of the ball, but they do return 10 starters on offense so they should be able to put some points up. I see the Bearcats taking a step back, and finishing 3rd-5th in the Big East, That being said I think Cincy has a good shot to knock Illinois off. This game should be played in the 30's and 40's
Dec 5th Fresno State-Well, Illinois broke the cardinal sin, and decided to play in December....Still, at least they did a good thing, and decided to schedule a half decent team....That being said I don't see Fresno State being as good as people and say. With the loss of Pascoe, and Brandstater I don't think they can win this one in Champaign. In Fresno this game is a complete different story, but the Illini take this one.
There you go, I know a lot of people agree, and disagree with me on this one....Just provided how I see it breaking down, and I think Illinois will go anywhere from 8-4 to 12-0 this season. Should be a great season though....
Tags: Arrelious Benn, Big Ten, Chase Coffman, Chase Daniel, Cincinnati, Daniel Dufrene, Fresno State, Illinois, Illinois State, Indiana, Iowa, Jason Ford, Jeremy Maclin, Juice Williams, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missori, Northwestern, Ohio State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Tom Izzo Sucks, Wisconsin