–Tim Beckman comes in and all the players not only buy into his “we not me” slogan, but his new spread offense as well. Nathan Scheelhaase becomes the electric playmaker that many believed he could be, while Michael Buchanan and Jonathan Brown prove why they came back for another year. Akeem Spence helps Buchanan anchor the D-line while Graham Pocic and the rest of the offensive line click and embrace their new positions.
-Pocic and Co. help Josh Ferguson and Donavon Young become a two-headed monster and rush for a combined 1200 yards.
The young runners take some pressure off of Scheelhaase and the Illini look lethal. They coast through their non-conference schedule by breezing past the likes of Western Michigan and Arizona State, while absolutely trashing Charleston Southern and beating Louisiana Tech by 4 touchdowns under the lights.
-At this point, the Illini enter Big Ten play with a 4-0 record and take on a deteriorating Penn State team who are fired up to beat the Illini at Memorial Stadium. The Illini are able to weather the storm, and despite chips on the Nittany Lions’ shoulders, Illinois squeezes out a much-needed victory to keep their undefeated season alive. The Illini sit at 5-0, but fans know not to get their girdles in a bunch. They did that last year and were devastated when the Illini choked down the stretch.
-The Illini roll into Wisconsin undefeated and march out of Camp Randall with another win. They then take their talents to Michigan, but the Big House in Ann Arbor proves to be too much for the Illini. They bounce back by embarrassing the Hoosiers in Champaign, only to lose the next week against a red-hot Ohio State team that can’t play in the postseason.
-They finish the season on a three-game win streak and clinch the division before beating Northwestern and claiming Chicago as their own. Illinois fans rally in Indy, showing up with shirts that say, “Long Live the Chief” and “Viva el Chief” as they go on to beat Michigan in a defensive battle. Illinois wins it on a punt return as the last seconds tick away, showing the nation how much their special teams have really improved.
-Tim Beckman comes in geared up for a bounce-back season, but the Big Ten proves to be too B1G, too fast, and too strong for him. Illinois drops the first game of the season to Western Michigan who gave them a run for their money last year in a 20-23 final in Champaign.
-The Sun Devils bring the heat in Tempe in a battle of new head coaches and Illinois falls again. They take the next three, including a win in their first Conference game, but drop the next four, which includes a scathing defeat to winless Indiana.
-The other three teams, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State (all away games for Illinois) will show Beckman that you need more than passion and team camaraderie to win in this league. Their talent overwhelms the Illini and tires them out for two of their next three contests. This includes a loss to Northwestern in Evanston. The Willis Tower (Sears to most) beams purple and the Illini go home with a very disappointing 5-7 record.
What could be worse? Weigh in with your comments below. Also, make sure to check back this season for all your Illini Football news stories. I’ll be covering the team from Champaign to Columbus to Madison this year.
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