MnB B1G Preview: Illinois

Apr 14, 2012; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Tim Beckman before the spring game at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE

Each Wednesday, up through August, I’ll cover a different Big Ten team or Michigan non-conference opponent. This week, I’m covering the Illinois Fighting Illini, who play Michigan on October 13, 2012 in Ann Arbor. The game is slated for a 3:30 PM EST start on ABC.

To see all of our football previews, click here.

2012 Illinois Fighting Illini Football Preview

2011 Record: 7-6 (2-6 Big Ten)

Head Coach: Tim Beckman, first season (21-16 overall)

Projected Returning Starters: 14

Spring Game: April 14th (Blue 13 Orange 12)

Notes: Illinois had a tumultuous season last year. The Illini started the season at 6-0, rising as high as #16 in the country. But Illinois lost six straight, costing head coach Ron Zook his job. The Illini were 4-3 in games decided by a touchdown or less. Tim Beckman takes over in Champaign, after reviving a University of Toledo team that had fallen on hard times. Beckman led the Rockets to a co-MAC West title, prior to departing for Illinois.

BVTSB Take: Illinois faces unrealistic expectations in general – the fan base expects Illinois to compete with the Michigans and Ohio States, but the Illini lack the resources to do so. These expectations ultimately lead to disappointments and terminated coaches. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase returns for his junior season – he threw for over 2100 yards last season, but only threw for 13 touchdowns, he did rush for six touchdowns. Besides Scheelhaase, running back Donovonn Young returns, but Jason Ford and Troy Pollard do not. As the fourth leading rusher in 2011 for Illinois, Young will be counted on this season. With A.J. Jenkins being drafted, the Illini will be without their top wide receiver, but Spencer Harris and Darius Millines should help – they contributed over 430 yards receiving and only two receiving touchdowns in 2011. I liked Illinois’s schedule in 2011 – after their 6-0 start I thought they had a decent shot at a division title, but things quickly unraveled. With that said, this season will be a tough one. Illinois has a tough non-conference schedule, facing Western Michigan, Arizona State, Charleston Southern, and Louisiana Tech. I like Illinois to win all four, but the Broncos and Bulldogs could present tough tests. Illinois’ first three conference games are absolutely brutal, facing Penn State, Wisconsin, and Michigan. After the bye week, things get easier. If Beckman can make a bowl game this season, consider it a success.

2012 Early Projection: 6-6

To see the 2012 Big Ten composite schedule, click here.

What are your thoughts on Illinois football? Tweet to us @BVTSB.

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