We're Talkin' Schedules - Illinois

It's mid-May in college football land. So we're talkin' schedules. What's more? We're going to be so bold as to dive in head-first and offer up some predictions. Is this going to be messy? Sure. But what the hell.

Let's start off with the "Woody" division, and alphabetically at the top of that heap...Illinois.

2010 Overall Record: 7-6
2010 Big Ten Record: 4-4

Non-Conference Opponents
9/3: Arkansas State (4-8)
9/10: South Dakota State (5-6)
9/17: Arizona State (6-6)
9/24: Western Michigan (6-6)

Divisional Opponents
10/8: @ Indiana
10/15: tOSU
10/22: @ Purdue
10/29: @ Penn State
11/19: Wisconsin

Crossover Opponents
10/1: Northwestern
11/12: Michigan
11/26: @ Minnesota

Do Not Play
Michigan State

If You Only Watch One Illinois Game in 2011: Without a doubt, it's the Michigan game...that's obvious. But if there's another game, it's gotta be tOSU. This will be the 2nd game back for Tressel (or not?) and his five tattooed starters. Illinois might be able to catch tOSU coming off a loss to Nebraska the week prior, so that could impact this game tremendously. The Illini could be coming into this game with a full head of steam thanks to an easier than normal non-conference slate because they miss playing Missouri this year (thankfully for Illinois).

Non-Conference Loss: The only real threat to the non-conf slate is Arizona State on September 17th. The Sun Devils will be sporting their fancy new unis, and will probably march into Champaign and proclaim it theirs. It will be a good game, as I see the Illini putting up a good fight for a half.

It's a Trap!: I'm torn between October 1 at Indiana, and October 22 at Purdue. Both opponents could easily sneak up on the Illini. More likely is probably Purdue...especially if Illinois somehow gets past tOSU. They have Penn State on the road the following week which starts the home stretch of the schedule with big games against Michigan and Wisconsin at home.

The Game Destined for ESPN3.com: No one is going to care about watching the Illini line up against South Dakota State on September 10th. Illinois will enter the game 1-0 and should...all things being equal, leave the game 2-0.

Final Analysis: This is going to be the classic type of season for a BCS-conference middle-of-the-road team. Start out 6-0 or more likely 5-1, and then completely fall apart when the conference portion of the schedule starts. But if the Illini get rolling and can keep that momentum going with a big win against tOSU, a New Year's Day bowl could be possible.

Fearless Predictions
Non-conference record: 3-1
Division Record: 2-3
Crossover Record: 2-1
Overall: 7-5

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