Illinois is perhaps the most frustrating team in the Big Ten; talented, but terrible. Last year's squad was a dismal 2-10 (0-8 Big Ten), and not much more can be said on that. I mean, they beat Charleston Southern and Western Michigan. Way to go. You have to feel sorry for QB Nathan Scheelhaase, though; he's a talented QB who has had more OCs than anyone ever...and he plays for Tim Beckman.
With games against an improving Washington at Soldier Field, and road games against Nebraska and Penn State, 2013's schedule will not be kind, either. Brutal may be the more appropriate term. Without any Charleston Southerns on the schedule, it's difficult to see the Illini getting any better than 2-10 in 2013. Even their first opponent, Southern Illinois, isn't going to be easy. The Salukis lost close to South Dakota State and North Dakota State, both of whom were in the FCS playoffs, with the Bison winning it all. It's safe to say that the Bison were a better team than Illinois, and if the Salukis played NDSU so close, they'll have a very good chance of beating Illinois this year. However, with the Salukis losing six defensive starters from last year, new Illinois OC Bill Cubit may have an opportunity to start the season with a victory. The Cincinnati Bearcats will head into Memorial Stadium on September 7; their offense was 14th in points-against last year, and with a QB named Munchie Legaux, how can you pick against the Bearcats?
Realistically, the only games in which I can see Illinois being competitive are home against Miami (OH) on 9/28 and on the road against the Purdue Fightin' ACLs on 11/23--seriously, can't an engineering school engineer better knees for their players and make them like the 6 Million Dollar Man? They must have the technology to rebuild them, right? Be prepared for last year's blow-outs to continue in 2013, too. The only possible saving grace for the Illini this year will be Bill Cubit. Cubit did some really good things in Kalamazoo while he was the head coach at Western Michigan (except for losing to Illinois), and he could be the guy to turn this program, and Scheelhaase, around.
Wisconsin heads into Champaign for a night game on October 18, which will leave a "Motion W"-sized mark on the behinds of the Illini. The Badgers may have some minor hiccups with new head coach Gary Andersen, but there's no way Bucky's going to let this one slip by. We all know how well Penn State has performed under Bill O'Brien, and Happy Valley is a tough place to play, especially if you're bad, so there's another loss for the Illini. Indiana is also on the come and will could prove to be a better team this year. Kevin Wilson has that program moving in the right direction, and they'll beat Illinois for the second consecutive year. Do I even really need to address Ohio State or Northwestern? Illinois lost these games a combined 102-36 last year.
So, the analysis of the Illinois 2013 is that this team will not win more than two or three games this year, and could possibly even win only one. Although Beckman did turn around a Toledo Rockets team in his second year, and Cubit brought the Western Broncos to more bowls (3 between 2004 and 2012) than they had seen in their existence prior to his arrival, this isn't going to be the year for an Illinois resurrection. Unfortunately for Nathan Scheelhaase, it is much too late.
Below is a look at the full schedule.
8/13 Southern Illinois
9/14 Washington (Soldier Field)
9/28 Miami (OH)
10/5 at Nebraska
10/19 Wisconsin (night game)
10/26 Michigan State
11/2 at Penn State
11/9 at Indiana
11/16 Ohio State
11/23 at Purdue