Offensive Key To Success:
Develop a passing attack to become balanced. RB Reggie Corbin had 1,000 yard rushing season last year as the focal point for the attack. Michigan transfer Brandon Peters is Starting QB after beating out freshman Isiah Williams. Illinois only averaged 166 yards a game and had three more interceptions than touchdowns.
Defensive Key To Success:
Stop the Run. Illinois was 124th against the run last year. Former 5 star transfer from USC Oluwole Betiku should help. The defense returns 10 starters and the linebacker and secondary groups are solid.
Biggest Game Of The Season:
If they beat Akron, UConn, and EMU and start the season 3-0. I see the big game being October 5th at Minnesota. They will need to win this game to have a chance at making a bowl game. The Big Ten West is wide open and Illinois has an outside chance at sneaking into a bowl game.
Breakout player to watch for is Junior Wide Receiver Ricky Smalling. He only caught 33 passes last season but with any improvement in the passing game Smalling is the top receiver and should reap the rewards.
While I think it’s possible that Illinois makes a bowl game after breaking down the schedule I see them finishing 3-9. I have them beating Rutgers and UConn but losing to either Akron or an improved EMU. Another disappointing season but they will show signs of improvement.