2019 Football Preview – Big Ten – Fighting Illini
Looking for 2019 Illinois Fighting Illini predictions? The Fighting Illini are still waiting on the ROI from the hire of Lovie Smith. The NFL veteran has been given 3 years to turn the Illinois program around and so far the team record is just 9-27. As per usual, Illinois send another young squad to compete in 2019, but youth is no longer an excuse in Champaign. Smith should find himself on the hot seat as it appears it’s either time to put up or shut up for the former Super Bowl bound coach.
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2019 College Football Preview – Illinois Fighting Illini
Head Coach: Lovie Smith
2018 Record: 4-8
Illinois Fighting Illini Odds to win the 2019 FBS Championship: +25000
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Illinois is listed at +25000 just to win the Big Ten title, let alone the national championship. The team has the potential to start off 5-0, but it could get ugly after that.
2019 Illinois Fighting Illini Predictions: Team Strengths
Ground and Pound: Illinois could run a very similar offense to the Air Force and Navy squads from the past couple decades where 4 passes a game would be considered “airing it out.” This is a result of a) the Illini having the #2 rushing attack in the Big Ten last season b) nobody to throw the ball and c) nobody to throw the ball to.
Rod Smith should help the Illini offense improve in his 2nd year as OC. He helped improve the Illinois offensive scoring by 10 points a game in his debut in 2018 but once again, finding a definitive #1 signal caller is paramount for the Illini offense.
Luckily All Big-Ten RB Reggie Corbin returns to help ease pressure off of whoever is taking snaps. Mike Epstein is also a threat in the backfield (when healthy) and the Illini have a nice ‘thunder and lighting’ combination of bruiser Ra’Von Bonner and speedy redshirt Jakari Norwood.
The Allure of Potential: One of the reasons that Lovie Smith has kept his job this long is because the team always seems to have potential. That’s no different in 2019 thanks to some additions that may (or may not) contribute.
It’s accepted that Illinois has arguably the worst wide receiver corps in the Big Ten especially with the promising Mike Dudek missing four straight seasons of play with injuries. There is potential in 2019 though with the addition of USC transfer Trevon Sidney. Illinois could also turn to 4-star QB recruit Isaiah Williams sooner rather than later which could help JR. wide receiver Ricky Smalling take a big step this season.
2019 Illinois Fighting Illini Predictions: Team Weaknesses
Shoring Up the Swiss Cheese Defense: Lovie Smith took the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl nearly on defense alone. Either his scheme doesn’t transfer to the college level or he needs to sign a freshman named Brian Urlacher, Jr. because the Illinois defense was awful ranking 123rd in the country at 39+ ppg allowed.
There was an 8-game stretch in 2018 where the Illini allowed 63, 17, 46, 49, 63, 31, 54, and 63 points. It didn’t matter what the Illini scored on offense as this was a favorite team of ‘over’ backers.
The good thing is that the Fighting Illini D will (should) be much better in 2019 – after all it’s hard to be worse. They return 10 starters on that side of the ball including future NFL prospects Bobby Roundtree and Nate Hobbs. Smith has also taken over DC duties meaning if the unit fails this season – somebody is probably going to lose their job.
The Illini will need some contributions from young players this year – as all teams will. That being said the Illini finally have as many upperclassmen as underclassmen and Smith won’t have to rely on teenagers for his teams success. The Illini return as many starters as anybody in the conference at 17.
Illinois Fightin Illini Prediction: 6-6
It’s absolutely imperative for Illinois to get off to a 3-0 start with wins over Akron, @Connecticut, and Eastern Michigan. Nebraska at home is a toss-up for the first conference game but Illinois then goes to face a Minnesota team they beat 55-31 in 2018.
A 4-1 start would be a great momentum booster with winnable home games against Rutgers and possibly Northwestern still remaining. Illinois can be set up nicely if they can develop QB play and get used to Smith’s defensive calls in the non-conference schedule.
Then again, it’s just as conceivable that Illinois tanks one of their non-conference games and gets blown out at Minneapolis leaving them 2-6 (after losses to Wisconsin, Michigan, and at Purdue) going into the Rutgers game.
Becoming bowl eligible should be Illinois’ only goal this year. It’s taken a while, but it looks like Smith is finally putting some pieces together. Unfortunately the most important one – quarterback – is still a huge question mark.
2019 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football Schedule
Date Time vs
- Aug 31. AKRON
- Sept 7 @Connecticut
- Sept 14 EASTERN MICHIGAN
- Sept. 21 NEBRASKA
- Oct. 5 @Minnesota
- Oct. 12 MICHIGAN
- Oct. 19 WISCONSIN
- Oct. 26 @Purdue
- Nov. 2 RUTGERS
- Nov. 9 @ Michigan State
- Nov. 23 @Iowa
- Nov. 30 NORTHWESTERN
What do you think about our 2019 Illinois Fighting Illini predictions? Please leave us a comment below telling us how you think they’ll do in 2019!
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