2012-13 Football Previews – (Big 10) – Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois started the 2011 season 6-0 and it looked like the team was ready for big things. The Fighting Illini then proceeded to lose six straight games. Illinois fired coach Ron Zook before the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl game last year. Illinois did rally for 20-14 win over UCLA in that game.
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Big 10 Conference 2012-2013 College Football Previews: Illinois Fighting Illini
Head Coach: Tim Beckman
2011 Record: 7-6
Illinois Gambling Odds from 5Dimes to win BCS Championship: +50,000
Illinois Gambling Odds from 5Dimes to win Big 10 Conference: +1,800
Illinois Team Page – Players Stats – Roster – 2012 Schedule –>
Still, 7-6 wasn’t really an acceptable result considering how things had started and the expectations around the team.
Enter Tim Beckman, who will take over for Ron Zook. Beckman had a successful run at Toledo before being hired at Illinois at the end of last season. Fortunately for Beckman, Zook did a terrific job recruiting, which means Beckman has a lot of talent on the roster heading into 2012. This isn’t the typical coaching change situation where everything about the team is broken. Beckman has a nice base to build from. Can Illinois take advantage of a Big Ten Leaders Division that is wounded in 2012?
Nathan Scheelhaase is a very talented quarterback to lead this offense. He can run it very well and he is more accurate throwing the ball than many give him credit for being. Scheelhaase is the team’s leading returning rusher, but look for him to be throwing it more often in the Fighting Illini’s new spread offense. He’ll have to learn his third offense in as many years, but he is an intelligent guy who should fit into the new system well.
The Illinois defense was tremendous in 2011. The Fighting Illini ranked seventh in the nation in total defense. It all starts with a tremendous front seven. The defensive line is anchored by Akeem Spence in the middle and Michael Buchanon on the outside. Senior tackle Glenn Foster is another guy that the coaching staff is very high on.
Jonathan Brown looks like the next Illinois linebacking star. He led the team in tackles in 2011, and he has reportedly looked great in offseason workouts. In addition, the Fighting Illini have all four starters returning in the secondary.
The running back spot is wide open right now. Donovonn Young is the guy the coaches expect to emerge as the starter, but he has been hampered by injuries his entire career. In addition, Young has had fumbling problems in the past. There isn’t a whole lot of depth in this area. Josh Ferguson looks like a solid runner, but Illinois needs these top guys to stay healthy.
A.J. Jenkins was a dominating receiver in an offense that largely ran the ball in 2011. Jenkins piled up 90 catches in 2011, but he is now a member of the San Francisco 49ers. Darius Millines has the potential to be a star, but he has been held out of most offseason workouts with an injury. This is another position where depth is a problem for Illinois.
2012-2013 Illinois Fighting Illini Football Prediction: 8-5
Illinois has some things working to their advantage and some things working against them heading into this season. The Big Ten Leaders Division is wide open with Ohio State ineligible for postseason and Penn State in big trouble. However, the Fighting Illini have road games at Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State. The defense may be the best in the Big Ten, but the offense has several question marks. It wouldn’t stun me to see this team at the top of the Big Ten Leaders Division, but with all the question marks I’ll predict a minor improvement from last year.
2012 Illinois Schedule
9/1/12 12:00 PM ET WMICH
9/8/12 10:30 PM ET @ARZST
9/15/12 12:00 PM ET CHSOU
9/22/12 TBD LTECH
9/29/12 TBD PENST
10/6/12 3:30 PM ET @WISC
10/13/12 3:30 PM ET @MICH
10/27/12 TBD IND
11/3/12 TBD @OHIST
11/10/12 TBD MINN
11/17/12 TBD PURD
11/24/12 TBD @NWEST