Thursday, September 04, 2008

Looking Ahead

Here's a quick overview of the 2008 Illini football schedule. A lot will happen throughout the Big Ten and college football over the course of the season, and the Illini have plenty to look forward to, as the season gets underway.

9/6 - Eastern Illinois @ home: Although the Panthers are ranked in the top 20 of the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision -- formerly known as I-AA), the Illini have the talent and athleticism to outlast Tony Romo's alma mater, as long as they don't take anything for granted.

9/13 - Louisiana-Lafayette @ home: The SunBelt Conference's Ragin' Cajuns should be another opportunity for the Illini offense to gain experience and confidence, and for the Illini defense to step up, but again, they need to show up to play.

9/27 @ Penn State: Although the Illini beat JoePa & company last season, it will be much tougher to play in Happy Valley. And although the Illini won on the road at Ohio State last season, I don't think they will be overlooked by any Big Ten opponent this season.

10/4 @ Michigan: The Wolverines are adjusting to a new offense, but they will improve throughout the season. The team the Illini will face at the Big House will be tougher than the team that lost their second consecutive season opener last weekend, but the Illini have won in Ann Arbor before...

10/11 Minnesota @ home: Excitement will be running high in Memorial Stadium, and this is homecoming. The Golden Gophers just escaped the NIU Huskies this weekend, and it could be a tough year for them in the Big Ten. They will likely need a year or two for Coach Brewster to make noticeable progress.

10/18 Indiana @ home: Indiana was another Big Ten team with a surprisingly strong showing in 2007. They lost some key players to the pros, but they will likely continue to play well. However, Champaign's Memorial Stadium probably won't be an easy place to play this year. Have I mentioned that I look forward to seeing the progress on the renovations?

10/25 @ Wisconsin: 'Twas sweet to see the Badgers fall last year, but Camp Randall Stadium will be a tough place to play, and Hill has only improved with experience...

11/1 Iowa @ home: Last season was not what the Hawkeyes hoped, and I expect to see a stronger team this year. That said, the Illini won't forget the painful late-game loss in Iowa City last year, and they should be ready to play in Champaign.

11/8 Western Michigan @ Detroit: This could be a nice break -- or a trap game. A healthy, improving Illini team should do well, but again, they can't take anything for granted...

11/15 Ohio State @ home: I have no idea what the college football landscape will look like in a couple months, but I do know that the Buckeyes will remember their first loss of the 2007 season. They still played for the National Championship, but they won't overlook the Illini this year. It will help to be playing in Memorial Stadium.

11/22 @ Northwestern: They looked pretty good against Syracuse this week, although that isn't saying much. The Illini are more talented, but in recent years they have struggled in this in-state rivalry game when on the road. Time to change that trend.

This schedule isn't as favorable as the 2007 schedule, and there are a few key questions the Illini need to answer. I believe 8 wins are very possible, and that should be enough to ensure the season continues.

Go Illini!


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