Read my previous three previews here: Quarterbacks | Offense| Defense
Illinois should easily start the season off 2-0 with wins against Kent State and Western Illinois. Illinois will then travel to Chicago to play USF at Soldier Field. Quentin Flowers gashed the Illini last year as the Illinois defense allowed 3-100 yard rushers in that game. USF returns Darius Tice and D’Ernest Johnson who had a combined 205 yards and 1 TD against Illinois last year. Flowers is gone, but Tice and Johnson will still hurt the Illini, if the defense doesn’t close up gaps on the line. However, if the Illini can keep up with the USF offense, by scoring points, this game could be winnable. But I will give the win to USF getting the Illini to 2-1 at the start of the Big Ten Schedule.
Illinois will start the B1G with a loss to Penn State at home, something I won’t even question. Rutgers will be an enticing matchup, but Illinois only has a chance of winning the game at 34% according to SB Nation. Illinois will find a way to win, beating the Scarlet Knights 28-24 in New Jersey. Lovie will get his second B1G win and the Illini will ride into a home game against Purdue, which Illinois will lose, putting the Illini at 3-3 halfway into the season, which would be something to dream about.
Illinois will lose at Camp Randall, again something I will be sure will be a loss. But here is where the season gets fun Illinois will win at Maryland and against Minnesota on Dad’s Day, if the team is still healthy in mid October. But that will be the it for the Illini, who will lose the next 4 games, ending the season 5-7 and just narrowly miss a bowl.
As an Illini fan, this is the best case scenario that I can hope for.