Breaking down the Illini football home games
August 1, 2017
College Football season is right around the corner, and with it comes round two for the Lovie Smith-led Illini. For those new students who want to try and plan out what games they want to go to through the season, here is a breakdown of the Illini’s home schedule.
Week 1: vs Ball State
There are a lot of questions surrounding the Illinois Football team this season. Don’t expect any of them to be answered in this week one matchup. Ball State is not up to par with the competition the Illini will be up against for the rest of the season. It is normal for the Illini to use week one as a sort of warm up game for the road ahead. Last season, they stomped Murray St. by 49 points, and the year before that they beat Kent State by the same score.
Illinois should not have a problem with Ball State, but as the first game of the season, it is bound to have some hype around it. Just don’t allow it to make your expectations too high for the rest of the season.
Week 2: vs Western Kentucky
Even though it is still early in the season, week two presents a real challenge for the Illini. Western Kentucky won the Conference USA championship outright, and have a good chance to repeat. The Illini offense will have a much harder time in week two than it did in the previous week, and it will also be a good test for the Illini offense.
While Western Kentucky is a much smaller school and competes in a smaller conference, they should not be underestimated. Expect a close game in week two.
Week 3: at South Florida
Week 4: vs Nebraska
This home matchup against Nebraska brings the start of Big Ten play. Experts are not giving the Illini much of a chance this season when it comes to Big Ten play. They are at 500-1 odds to win the conference this year. Nebraska is by no means a favorite, but they can definitely do some damage. The Illini put up a fight last year in Lincoln, but that was mainly because their defense was picking up so much slack. After a lot of turnover, I am not sure the Illini defense will be able to keep the games close against top competition this year.
Opening Big Ten play with Nebraska isn’t the worst case scenario, and its definitely not a lost cause from the beginning.
Week 5: at Iowa
Week 6: vs Rutgers
Rutgers has been the laughing stock of the Big Ten for years now, but they have been slightly improving with every passing year. The Illini left Piscataway with a comfortable win last year, but the Illini will more than likely suffer a decent drop off this season, and if Rutgers improves again, then this could be one of the closest games the Illini will play all season, as well as the only game the Illini may be outright favored in on the Big Ten schedule.
Week 7: at Minnesota
Week 8: vs Wisconsin
This is Homecoming Weekend. By default you should go to this game. The Illini, however are not sticking to the tradition of playing a pushover for their homecoming matchup. Instead, they welcome the favorite to win the Big Ten West, the Wisconsin Badgers. Long story short, this is going to be a tough game for the Illini. Wisconsin is really good. But this is an opportunity to see a top team in the Big Ten compete. Don’t spoil the opportunity, and enjoy Homecoming Weekend.
Week 9: at Purdue
Week 10: vs Indiana
Just like you should definitely go to the Homecoming Game, you should also go to the Dad’s Weekend game against Indiana. This one should prove to be a better game than the Homecoming game against Wisconsin. Indiana should be more towards the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. The Illini will still have a tough time with the Hoosiers, but this one will not be over before it starts. Go to the game with your Dad, and have a good time.
Week 11: at Ohio State
Week 12: vs Northwestern
For the first time in years, the Illini will be hosting the Northwestern Wildcats at Memorial Stadium. Normally they face if at Soldier Field in Chicago, so this is a pretty big deal to be bringing this rivalry back to Champaign. And this is definitely a rivalry now. The Illini have had trouble with the Wildcats the past couple seasons, but actually getting to play them at home should serve as an advantage. This is also the last home game of season and will serve as senior night for the Illini. Show the Illini seniors that you care and show up to root for them in their last game.
Cole is a junior in Media.