Last season was filled with disappointment for head coach Tim Beckman. He took over as coach for the struggling Illinois Fighting Illini and things went from bad to worse.
Things don’t appear to get any easier for Illinois going forward, as the Big Ten will be fairly strong in 2013. Several teams, including Indiana, have nice recruiting classes coming in that will make an impact right away. Illinois has four 4-stars included in their own 2013 class, which certainly will help the team’s case this season.
The biggest question mark is quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. Scheelhaase has shown some flashes of promise during his time in Champaign, but inconsistency has plagued him. Scheelhaase is the key for the Illini offense. If he works hard and really gets better this spring, Illinois has a fighting chance to compete in the conference.
Some of that is on the offensive line, which surrendered 39 sacks last season. The line will be under the tutelage of new O-line coach A.J. Ricker in 2013. Unless Ricker cleans up Illinois’ issues up front, the Illini have little chance of winning games against even the worst Big Ten teams.
Illinois’ home schedule is among the conference’s toughest this year, so their best chances to win are both on the road: November 9th at Indiana, and November 23rd at Purdue. These are certainly winnable games for the Illini as neither of these opponents are any good.
That said, neither is Illinois. They would have to improve drastically on the defensive and offensive lines in order to be competitive in 2013. They lost to both Indiana and Purdue last season, but the loss to Purdue was by just a field goal. The Illini are capable of winning one of these, but on the road I don’t see it happening.
Sorry Illini fans, I fear another winless Big Ten season is lurking.
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