Illinois football schedule predictions and early game-by-game preview for 2016. Projecting how the Fighting Illini will do this year.
It’s the first year under new head coach Lovie Smith. Will the coaching change make enough of a difference? Can the Illini reach a bowl game? Check out these Illinois football schedule predictions for every game.
Sept. 3 vs. Murray State
Lovie starts out his era with an easy first win. For a team that needs a ton of work and a lot of tweaking, rolling past the Racers will get the key parts in place – at least that’s the hope – in a true preseason game.
Preseason Prediction: Illinois 41, Murray State 13
Sept. 10 vs. North Carolina
Last year, the Illini seemed like they were on a roll with a 2-0 start, and then came the trip to Chapel Hill and a 48-14 blasting. This year, the score and game will be closer, but the offense won’t be able to do enough to keep up with a balanced day from the explosive Tar Heels.
Preseason Prediction: North Carolina 37, Illinois 21
Sept. 17 vs. Western Michigan
Welcomed to the big unfocused moment of the season. Western Michigan is the best team in the MAC, boasting a high-powered passing game and terrific skill players able to get the offense rolling. Illinois will make a few too many mistakes, Zach Terrell and the Bronco offense will get rolling, and it’ll be an ugly-looking home loss early on.
Preseason Prediction: Western Michigan 27, Illinois 24
Oct. 1 at Nebraska
The Illini came up with a key 14-13 win at home over the Huskers last season, but this year it’s the first road of the season against a team in badly need of an easy layup. Even though Illinois is coming off a bye week, Nebraska will play like the fresher team.
Preseason Prediction: Nebraska 28, Illinois 17
Oct. 8 vs. Purdue
The Boilermakers will be on their second road game in a row going to Maryland the week before, while Illinois is back home for its fourth game in Champaign in the first five. Purdue is better than it was last season when it lost at home 48-14, but Illinois will come up with one of its sharpest performances of the first half of the year.
Preseason Prediction: Illinois 31, Purdue 17
Oct. 15 at Rutgers
It’s the third time the two programs have ever played, with Rutgers winning 33-0 in 2006 and Illinois taking the 2005 season-opener 33-30. The Scarlet Knights will start to find something positive by this point in the year in the first season under head coach Chris Ash, and the offense will be just good enough in the fourth quarter to come up with their first Big Ten victory of 2016.
Preseason Prediction: Rutgers 30, Illinois 23
Oct. 22 at Michigan
Not only do the Illini have to go to Ann Arbor, they’re facing a rested team coming off a break. The 6-0 Wolverines will roll, showing just how far Illinois has to go under the new coaching staff.
Preseason Prediction: Michigan 38, Illinois 10
Oct. 29 vs. Minnesota
Just when the season seems like it’s spiraling out of control, Illinois will come up with the out-of-the-blue type of win it got at home over the Gophers in 2014. The Illini will play like a desperate team that pulls out all the defensive stops.
Preseason Prediction: Illinois 31, Minnesota 17
Nov. 5 vs. Michigan State
The one week of fun after beating Minnesota will be short lived. Michigan State should be in a great mood coming off a win over Michigan, but will it be focused on the road? No, but the running game will work in the fourth quarter to get out with the tougher-than-needed win.
Preseason Prediction: Michigan State 23, Illinois 17
Nov. 12 at Wisconsin
2007 – six games ago – was the last time Illinois got a win over the Badgers, and 1992 was the last time it came away from Camp Randall with a victory. It’s not going to happen this time, either, with the Bucky ground game dominating the time of possession in the second half.
Preseason Prediction: Wisconsin 34, Illinois 16
Nov. 19 vs. Iowa
Can the Illini come up with something special in the final home game of the year? Almost. The opportunities will be there to come up with a big score to take control, but Iowa won’t break – it’ll do a whole lot of bending. This won’t be a keeper in terms of looks.
Preseason Prediction: Iowa 26, Illinois 20
Nov. 26 at Northwestern
Illinois very badly wants to be Chicago’s Big Ten Team, and this will be like its bowl game with a losing season assured. Northwestern will need this game after going on a long, rough losing streak, and in a fun and entertaining game, it’ll be a shootout with both offenses opening it up.
Preseason Prediction: Northwestern 37, Illinois 33
2016 Prediction: 3-9
2016 Big Ten Prediction: 2-7