The Daily Illini’s football predictions

Editor’s Note: During Camp Rantoul, The Daily Illini football staff sat down and made predictions for the 2015 Illinois season.

Peter Bailey-WellsSports editor

Prediction: 6-7 with a bowl loss.

This team is Beckman’s best in four years, but so is the Big Ten. Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin are very likely defeats for Illinois. It’ll be tough to get a win in Minneapolis, Iowa City or State College, and the only Big Ten games that Illinois is favored in are against Purdue and Northwestern. All four non-conference games are winnable.

It’s really just tough luck for the Illini — this team is talented enough to finish with eight wins in a conference like the ACC. Injuries could also doom this team to the conference cellar if things go poorly, and if that’s the case, Tim Beckman is likely to be on the chopping block.

Michal DwojakFootball writer

Prediction: 8-5 with a bowl win.

Illinois football will be successful this season if one thing happens: quarterback Wes Lunt stays healthy for the entire season. Let me know if that’s the first time you’ve heard that bold proclamation, but it’s true. The offense revolves around Lunt and his arm. If Lunt goes down, there won’t be Reilly O’Toole to save the season — it will simply go in the tank.

The defense has grown into a veteran group and the injured players should return for conference play. Again, all of this depends on the health of Lunt, so no pressure, offensive line.

Charlotte CarrollFootball writer

Prediction: 7-6 with a bowl win.

For Illinois, 2015 will be a season of questions. Can the team outlast the pressures of head coach Tim Beckman? Can the team withstand current injures such as those of wide receiver Mike Dudek and defensive lineman Jihad Ward? Will quarterback Wes Lunt perform at the expected level and remain unhurt? If enough of those answers are yes, Illinois should be able to put together a winning record and make another bowl game.

However, as the past has shown, Illinois football is known for its unpredictability, so fans can be sure to expect another roller-coaster season.

Joey GelmanOn-air football reporter

Prediction: 7-6 with a bowl win

The 2015 Illini football team offers more questions than answers heading into the season. The core of this team is now a “Tim Beckman” group of players, but that may not translate into many more wins. Based on Beckman’s history, the team’s win total should increase to eight wins this season, but a 7-6 campaign, including a bowl victory, seems more likely. The senior-led defense could prove to be Beckman’s best in four years, but injuries and questions offensively surrounding Wes Lunt, Mike Dudek, Justin Hardee and a second-tier running back behind Josh Ferguson leave a lot of uncertainty.

Masaki SugimotoOn-air football reporter

Prediction: 4-8 with no bowl game.

Illinois’ roster has decent talent and experience this season, but won’t make it far. The potential of a lawsuit and the outcome of an investigation are still undetermined, meaning this program could hit harder times than it already has. The Illini are good enough to make it out of the non-conference portion of the schedule with some wins, but Big Ten play will prove to be a struggle for the Illini. Mike Dudek’s recovery will be something to watch for this team.

Dan EscalonaCollege football columnist

Prediction: 7-6 with a bowl win.

Expect Wes Lunt to stay healthy and Mike Dudek to return ahead of schedule to lead a potent Illini offense. Yet, only a marginal improvement will be seen on the defensive end as Illinois should finish the season once again at 6–6. By virtue of a .500 record, they’ll play in a mediocre bowl game, but having learned their lesson from 2014’s Heart of Dallas Bowl disaster, the Illini could very well save Tim Beckman’s job with his first bowl win as Illinois head coach.