2013 Illinois football's 10 things to know: A desperate search for play-makers

Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE

Tim Beckman didn't really do anything right in his first year as Illinois head coach, but it's hard to say that anybody would have been able to make much of the roster he inherited. Does the two-deep look any more promising this time around? Not really. For more on the Illini, visit The Champaign Room.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. Well that didn't go as planned…

Being a head coach is pretty hard. You are required to figure out ways to move the ball (and stop opponents from doing so) with personnel that might not fit your preferred scheme. You are required to sell your vision of the program to recruits. And you are required to recruit (and develop talent) well enough to be ready for The Turn in years three and four. (This is, of course, a rather massive generalization.)

Winning in the first year is not an outright requirement, especially if you're coming aboard at a school that dumped its last coach for not winning enough. It is assumed that you'll need a little bit of time to rebuild; sometimes you get lucky and strike gold early, but that's a nice bonus. It isn't mandatory. Really, all you are truly required to accomplish in year one is hope. Give fans and administrators some glimpses of what your team will look like when it finds third or fourth gear.

Basically, accomplish anything other than what Tim Beckman pulled off in Champaign in his first season as Illinois head coach.

He was perhaps a little bit too enthusiastic in his post-sanctions recruitment of Penn State players, his team laid some road eggs early in the season, and then his team completely and totally fell apart late in the year. The damage: a 2-10 season that was, according to College Football Reference's SRS ratings system, the third-worst in Illinois' long football history. A bad offense figured out how to get worse, and the defense plummeted from good to below average.

This was a bad, bad year. Granted, it probably had more to do with what Beckman inherited rather than what Beckman and his staff actually attempted to do -- there was not a play-maker to be found on offense, for starters -- but in the perceptions game, Beckman had the worst first year of any 2012 hire at the BCS level, worse than Mike Leach, worse than Charlie Weis. And he probably didn't win back any faith with an uninspiring first recruiting class.

I liked the Beckman hire; I liked what he did at Toledo, and I thought his ties to the region made this a sensible hire all around. And by no means has his entire tenure been doomed by a single, bad year. (Insert common "Lou Holtz went 0-11 in his first year at South Carolina" reference here.) But instead of hope, Beckman finds pressure to succeed in his second year. Does he have the play-makers to do it? And can a hopeless offense improve enough to offset massive losses on the defensive side of the ball?

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 2-10 | Adj. Record: 3-9 | Final F/+ Rk: 108
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
1-Sep Western Michigan 24-7 W 14.1 - 12.0 W
8-Sep at Arizona State 14-45 L 24.6 - 43.5 L
15-Sep Charleston Southern 44-0 W 24.5 - 8.2 W
22-Sep Louisiana Tech 24-52 L 18.8 - 25.9 L
29-Sep Penn State 7-35 L 28.5 - 30.7 L
6-Oct at Wisconsin 14-31 L 25.6 - 34.5 L
13-Oct at Michigan 0-45 L 9.5 - 41.3 L
27-Oct Indiana 17-31 L 22.8 - 19.5 W
3-Nov at Ohio State 22-52 L 15.9 - 38.6 L
10-Nov Minnesota 3-17 L 23.6 - 30.9 L
17-Nov Purdue 17-20 L 23.1 - 33.7 L
24-Nov at Northwestern 14-50 L 31.0 - 36.0 L
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 16.7 122 32.1 94
Adj. Points Per Game 21.8 114 29.6 79

2. A bad road team

The offense never had a chance in 2012. The national average for points in 2012 was right around 28.0 in a game, so in terms of Adj. Points, Illinois played at an above-average level on offense just twice all year, against Penn State and Northwestern. And even in those two games, Illinois averaged better than 5.0 yards per play but still only scored 21 total points, doomed by turnovers (six combined) and awful field position.

Still, the defense made the Illini an interesting team for part of the year. Only once in their first five home games were the Illini worse than average on that side of the ball. But the bad offense still led to blowout home losses (by 28 to Louisiana Tech and Penn State, by 14 to Indiana), and the defense really didn't take its show on the road very well. And as mentioned up top, the whole thing fell apart in November.

Adj. Points Per Game (September-October at home, 5 games): Illinois 21.7, Opponent 19.3 (plus-2.4)
Adj. Points Per Game (September-October on the road, 3 games): Opponent 39.8, Illinois 19.9 (minus-19.9)
Adj. Points Per Game (November, 4 games): Opponent 34.8, Illinois 23.3 (minus-11.5)

You want to see late-season growth in your first season, even if the wins don't come with it. Instead, Illinois crumbled. And now it has to rebuild its defense.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 122 107 69 116
RUSHING 99 91 63 104
PASSING 111 105 85 110
Standard Downs 86 46 104
Passing Downs 120 118 119
Redzone 42 49 43
Q1 Rk 93 1st Down Rk 88
Q2 Rk 82 2nd Down Rk 107
Q3 Rk 114 3rd Down Rk 117
Q4 Rk 116

3. The system actually kind of worked…

The 2011 Toledo offense, captained by Beckman and offensive coordinator Matt Campbell, was predicated on extreme efficiency, especially on early downs. Toledo ranked 18th in Success Rate+, both overall and on standard downs, relying on steady, medium-sized gains to wear defenses down before occasionally breaking a tackle and turning a seven-yard gain into a 40-yard gain. That offense had three good running backs, one of the country's best possession receivers (Eric Page), and a lovely big-play receiver (Bernard Reedy and his 19 yards per catch).

Despite the fact that Campbell stayed in Toledo to take the head coaching job, you could see that Beckman and co-coordinators Billy Gonzales and Chris Beatty intended for the same approach. Like Toledo in 2011, Illinois ran slightly more frequently than the national average in 2012 and gave its quarterback as many easy throws as possible. With a line reasonably functional at creating opportunities for its backs, Illinois was respectable from an efficiency standpoint, ranking 46th in Standard Downs Success Rate+.

4. …until it came time for somebody, anybody, to make a play

The problem, of course, was that a seven-yard gain almost never turned into a 40-yard gain. No Illinois running back averaged better than 4.5 yards per carry. Only one Illinois wideout averaged better than 12.0 yards per catch (and he averaged only 12.7). Frequent dump-offs to running backs went absolutely nowhere.

Beckman inherited zero play-makers, and while the system clearly didn't adhere to the talent on hand ... was there any talent on hand?

Sharing a backfield with Mikel Leshoure in 2010, Nathan Scheelhaase rushed for 1,061 pre-sack yards and threw 17 touchdown passes to just eight interceptions. With A.J. Jenkins to help him out in 2011, Scheelhaase completed 63 percent of his passes and rushed for another 896 pre-sack yards. He was still quite clearly limited as a passer, and he took too many sacks (as so many mobile quarterbacks do), but he at least proved capable of moving the ball with interesting pieces around him.

But in 2012, there were no interesting pieces. There was no explosiveness at running back, nobody to make his job easier (especially on passing downs, where Jenkins thrived) in the receiving corps. Accordingly, Scheelhaase was just awful. He completed 61 percent of his passes, which seems reasonably healthy until you realize that he was averaging just 9.1 yards per completion, still taking a ton of sacks, and throwing twice as many picks as touchdowns. And his non-sack rushing yards were cut in half.

It's hard to pin too much of this on the coaching staff, but perhaps feeling pressure to make some changes, Beckman did just that. Gonzales and Beatty are both gone. So is OL coach Luke Butkus, for that matter. The major addition, meanwhile, is former Western Michigan head coach (and offensive coordinator at Stanford, Rutgers, and Missouri) Bill Cubit. Cubit was an early adopter of the spread offense, and his is certainly a logical, interesting hire. But he still can't create play-makers where none exist; plus, his offenses usually throw quite a bit. That doesn't exactly suit Scheelhaase's strengths (assuming Scheelhaase keeps the job).

Of course, if there's one thing Scheelhaase is used to, it's change. Cubit will be his fourth offensive coordinator in four years.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Nathan Scheelhasse 6'3, 195 Sr. **** (5.8) 149 246 1,361 60.6% 4 8 22 8.2% 4.5
Reilly O'Toole 6'4, 220 Jr. *** (5.7) 65 87 564 74.7% 6 4 14 13.9% 5.0
Miles Osei 6'0, 200 Sr. *** (5.5) 8 18 79 44.4% 0 2 3 14.3% 3.2
Chase Haslett 6'1, 195 So. NR






Aaron Bailey 6'2, 215 Fr. **** (5.9)






Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Donovonn Young RB 6'0, 220 Jr. *** (5.5) 131 571 4.4 3.9 3 -9.4
Nathan Scheelhaase QB 6'3, 195 Sr. **** (5.8) 103 461 4.5 3.0 4 -7.7
Josh Ferguson RB 5'10, 185 So. *** (5.5) 75 312 4.2 4.4 0 -8.9
Reilly O'Toole QB 6'4, 220 Jr. *** (5.7) 32 136 4.3 1.8 2 -4.6
Dami Ayoola RB 5'10, 205 So. *** (5.7) 26 117 4.5 4.8 2 -0.5
Jon Davis TE 6'3, 240 Jr. *** (5.7) 21 102 4.9 3.6 1 +1.1
Miles Osei QB 6'0, 200 Sr. *** (5.5) 9 59 6.6 5.4 0 +0.2
Ryan Lankford WR-X 6'0, 175 Sr. *** (5.5) 5 7 1.4 2.4 0 -1.9
LaKeith Walls RB 6'2, 195 RSFr. *** (5.5)





Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Ryan Lankford WR-X 6'0, 175 Sr. *** (5.5) 63 37 469 58.7% 7.4 18.9% 55.6% 7.6 60.0
Darius Millines WR-H 56 32 319 57.1% 5.7 16.8% 51.8% 5.7 40.8
Donovonn Young RB 6'0, 220 Jr. *** (5.5) 42 38 172 90.5% 4.1 12.6% 57.1% 4.1 22.0
Josh Ferguson RB 5'10, 185 So. *** (5.5) 38 29 251 76.3% 6.6 11.4% 60.5% 6.6 32.1
Spencer Harris WR-Z 6'3, 195 Sr. ** (5.4) 29 21 252 72.4% 8.7 8.7% 51.7% 8.8 32.2
Justin Hardee WR-X 6'1, 190 So. ** (5.4) 24 17 192 70.8% 8.0 7.2% 58.3% 8.1 24.5
Jon Davis TE 6'3, 240 Jr. *** (5.7) 18 9 88 50.0% 4.9 5.4% 44.4% 4.5 11.3
Dami Ayoola RB 5'10, 205 So. *** (5.7) 15 10 11 66.7% 0.7 4.5% 60.0% 0.7 1.4
Eddie Viliunas TE 13 8 66 61.5% 5.1 3.9% 46.2% 4.7 8.4
Miles Osei WR-H 6'0, 200 Sr. *** (5.5) 10 6 50 60.0% 5.0 3.0% 70.0% 4.7 6.4
Fritz Rock WR-Z 6'1, 200 Jr. *** (5.6) 8 5 50 62.5% 6.3 2.4% 50.0% 6.8 6.4
Kenny Knight WR-X 6'4, 210 So. *** (5.6) 7 5 52 71.4% 7.4 2.1% 100.0% 4.5 6.6
Steve Hull WR-X 6'2, 200 Sr. *** (5.5)








Devin Church WR-H 5'8, 190 RSFr. *** (5.6)








Martize Barr WR-H 6'0, 190 Jr. *** (5.4)








Dionte Taylor WR 6'0, 165 Fr. *** (5.7)








Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 100.1 3.10 2.84 40.0% 57.6% 21.8% 69.0 9.0% 7.6%
Rank 72 42 93 55 112 104 108 116 79
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Hugh Thornton LT 35 career starts; 2012 2nd All-Big Ten
Graham Pocic C 36 career starts
Michael Heitz LG 6'5, 305 Jr. *** (5.6) 21 career starts
Simon Cvijanovic LT 6'5, 295 Jr. ** (5.3) 15 career starts
Ted Karras RG 6'4, 300 So. *** (5.5) 12 career starts
Jake Feldmeyer C 6'4, 295 Sr. ** (5.4) 4 career starts
Alex Hill C 6'3, 325 Jr. *** (5.6) 3 career starts
Tyler Sands RG 2 career starts
Corey Lewis RT 6'6, 310 Sr. *** (5.5)
Chris O'Connor RG 6'5, 275 So. *** (5.5)
Scott McDowell RT 6'5, 290 So. *** (5.5)
Pat Flavin RT 6'7, 280 So. *** (5.7)
Joe Spencer LG 6'4, 290 RSFr. *** (5.7)
Dallas Hinkhouse OL 6'5, 265 Jr. *** (5.5)
Austin Schmidt LT 6'6, 275 Fr. ** (5.4)
Jesse Chadwell RG 6'5, 260 Fr. ** (5.4)

5. While we wait for play-makers…

...can the line hold steady or improve without a couple of (relatively speaking) stars? Make no mistake: the Illinois offensive line wasn't great in 2012. It allowed far too many defenders into the backfield and didn't create creases for short-yardage conversions. When you have an offense that completely lacks in explosiveness, you have to be able to find a push on third-and-1 or -2 to move the chains. Illinois didn't.

Still, by default, this was probably the best unit on the offense. It produced a second-team all-conference tackle in Hugh Thornton, and former star recruit Graham Pocic was at least better than competent at center. Pocic was a four-star recruit, and Thornton had the highest three-star designation (5.7). In 2013, new line coach A.J. Ricker inherits a line that features five players with starting experience (55 career starts), but how much talent just walked out of the door, and how much remains to take Thornton's and Pocic's place? Losing two starters isn't typically a big deal, and under Cubit Ricker showed that he can coach up a line pretty well (WMU was 64th in Adj. Line Yards, 30th in Adj. Sack Rate); but losing your two best players in a unit is always cause for concern.

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 54 92 99 91
RUSHING 96 102 115 82
PASSING 19 88 36 99
Standard Downs 94 113 88
Passing Downs 85 42 100
Redzone 90 98 72
Q1 Rk 48 1st Down Rk 92
Q2 Rk 80 2nd Down Rk 105
Q3 Rk 91 3rd Down Rk 15
Q4 Rk 96

6. The safety valves weren't

It may have been a bit surprising that the Illinois offense figured out how to get worse in 2012 (from 107th in Off. F/+ in 2011 to 117th in 2012), but we kind of knew in advance that the Illini weren't going to move the ball that well. That was certainly the case in 2011, but a defense that ranked eighth in Def. F/+ made sure that the Illini still reached seven wins overall. As mentioned, the defense had its moments early on, but in terms of full-season production, the D was barely better than the dreadful O, falling to 71st in Def. F/+.

In 2011, Illinois could rely on two things: a stout run front and quality big-play prevention in the secondary. In 2012, Illinois got neither. An experienced front four rushed the passer pretty well but got pushed around on the ground, and while Illinois remained relatively efficient in pass defense (36th in Passing Success Rate+), it leaked big plays as bad as almost anybody. Returning starting safeties Steve Hull and Supo Sanni each missed about half of the season, corners Terry Hawthorne and Justin Green were solid but inconsistent, and ... everything was a big mess, basically.

Tim Banks remains as defensive coordinator in 2013, but wow, does he have some rebuilding to do. It's difficult to get too worked up about replacing so much on the defensive line and in the secondary considering how much those units underachieved. Still total rebuilds are not particularly fun.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 91.7 3.27 3.11 41.5% 72.7% 15.0% 122.2 5.1% 8.5%
Rank 99 105 48 95 91 112 31 46 31
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Akeem Spence NT 12 52.0 7.8% 7 1 0 0 1 0
Michael Buchanan DE 12 40.0 6.0% 7 4.5 1 5 1 0
Glenn Foster DT 12 21.5 3.2% 5.5 2.5 0 0 0 0
Justin Staples DE 11 14.0 2.1% 2.5 0.5 0 1 1 0
Tim Kynard DE 6'3, 260 Sr. ** (5.2) 11 12.5 1.9% 3 1 0 1 0 2
Houston Bates DE 6'3, 240 Jr. *** (5.6) 10 12.5 1.9% 0 0 0 0 1 1
Darrius Caldwell DE 12 11.5 1.7% 5 2.5 0 0 1 1
Austin Teitsma DT 6'2, 280 Jr. ** (5.4) 12 8.5 1.3% 2 0.5 0 0 1 0
Teko Powell DT 6'3, 295 So. *** (5.6) 6 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kenny Nelson DE 6'6, 245 So. ** (5.4) 4 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jake Howe NT 6'3, 295 Jr. ** (5.3)

DeJazz Woods DE 6'3, 255 Jr. ** (5.2)

Vontrell Williams NT 6'4, 300 RSFr. *** (5.7)

Robbie Bain NT 6'3, 290 RSFr. *** (5.6)

Abe Cajuste DE 6'3, 290 Jr. *** (5.5)

Jarrod Clements DE 6'2, 275 Fr. *** (5.7)

Paul James DE 6'4, 245 Fr. *** (5.7)

Dawuane Smoot DE 6'3, 225 Fr. *** (5.6)



7. A total reset up front

Akeem Spence, Michael Buchanan, and Glenn Foster combined for 23 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in 2011 while complementing the great Whitney Mercilus up front; in 2012, they produced 19.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks without Mercilus. The play-for-play consistency regressed a decent amount, but there was still play-making potential here, especially against the pass. Now, all three are gone, as are ends Justin Staples and Darrius Caldwell (currently a grades-related casualty). No returnee had even 13.0 tackles last year, and only Tim Kynard has at least five career tackles for loss. This is a terribly green unit, one with almost no proven play-making ability whatsoever.

Linebackers Mason Monheim and Jonathan Brown are still around to make some disruptive plays, but if the line can't at least hold up to blocking, their opportunities will be minimal.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Ashante Williams STAR 12 61.5 9.3% 2.5 1.5 1 5 0 2
Mason Monheim MLB 6'1, 230 So. *** (5.5) 12 59.5 9.0% 6 1.5 1 1 2 1
Jonathan Brown WLB 6'1, 235 Sr. *** (5.6) 9 43.5 6.6% 9.5 2.5 0 1 1 1
Patrick Nixon-Youman STAR 11 30.0 4.5% 2 0 0 0 0 1
Mike Svetina WLB 6'2, 230 So. *** (5.5) 12 28.5 4.3% 2.5 0 0 1 0 0
Ralph Cooper WLB 6'1, 230 Jr. *** (5.5) 12 13.5 2.0% 3 0 0 0 0 0
Zepheniah Grimes WLB 5'11, 220 So. *** (5.6) 8 4.0 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Zach Becker MLB 12 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 1
Henry Dickinson (2011) MLB 6'4, 215 So. *** (5.5) 11 2.0 0.3% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Jeremey Whitlow STAR 6'2, 200 So. *** (5.5)

T.J. Neal MLB 6'1, 230 RSFr. *** (5.7)

B.J. Bello STAR 6'3, 205 RSFr. ** (5.4)

Eric Finney STAR 6'1, 205 So. ** (5.4)

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Earnest Thomas SS 6'2, 210 Jr. *** (5.7) 12 58.0 8.8% 2 1 1 0 3 0
Terry Hawthorne CB 11 37.5 5.7% 4 1 1 6 0 0
Justin Green CB 12 29.0 4.4% 0 0 0 6 0 0
Supo Sanni FS 7 21.5 3.2% 0.5 0 0 1 0 0
Tommy Davis S 12 15.5 2.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Steve Hull SS


5 14.0 2.1% 1 0 2 0 0 0
Eaton Spence CB 6'0, 180 So. ** (5.3) 12 12.0 1.8% 1 1 0 1 0 0
Jack Ramsey CB 9 11.5 1.7% 0 0 0 1 0 0
V'Angelo Bentley CB 5'10, 180 So. *** (5.6) 12 9.5 1.4% 0 0 0 3 1 0
Nick North FS 6'1, 195 So. ** (5.4)

Jevaris Little CB 6'1, 180 RSFr. *** (5.5)

Taylor Barton FS 6'1, 210 RSFr. *** (5.5)

Zane Petty DB 6'1, 175 Jr. ** (5.4)

Caleb Day DB 6'0, 188 Fr. **** (5.8)

Darius Mosely CB 5'11, 185 Fr. *** (5.7)

Dillan Cazley CB 5'10, 175 Fr. *** (5.6)

8. An almost total reset in the back

Earnest Thomas, who got quite a bit of playing time as a sophomore with Sanni and Hull out, is back. This is noteworthy because, of the five defensive backs who logged at least 15.0 tackles, he's the only one still in uniform. (Hull also returns, but he's playing receiver this year.)

Meanwhile, three of four corners are gone, leaving Eaton Spence, V'Angelo Bentley, and newbies to fill out the two-deep. Both Spence and Bentley had solid ratios of passes defensed (four) to total tackles (21.5), so perhaps there's hope here for what is potentially the four starters.

But the second string could potentially be filled entirely with players who have never seen the field before. That's terrifying. Nobody get hurt.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Justin DuVernois 6'1, 190 Jr. 73 41.9 2 16 19 47.9%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Taylor Zalewski 6'3, 200 So. 43 63 23 53.5%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Taylor Zalewski 6'3, 200 So. 12-12 2-3 66.7% 2-4 50.0%
Nick Immekus 10-10 2-2 100.0% 2-3 66.7%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Josh Ferguson KR 5'10, 185 So. 19 18.1 0
Terry Hawthorne KR 12 21.2 0
Donovonn Young KR 6'0, 220 Jr. 7 10.3 0
Tommy Davis PR 11 2.4 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 113
Net Punting 24
Net Kickoffs 17
Touchback Pct 15
Field Goal Pct 75
Kick Returns Avg 110
Punt Returns Avg 123

9. Special teams probably won't get worse, anyway

As in 2011 (106th in Special Teams F/+), the Illinois special teams unit mostly stunk in 2012 (113th). Taylor Zalewski was a strong kickoffs guy, and Justin DuVernois wasn't bad in the punting game, but the return game almost literally could not have been worse. Surely somebody on the roster can return a punt more than two yards, right? Right?

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2013 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug Southern Illinois NR
7-Sep Cincinnati 26
14-Sep vs. Washington 49
28-Sep Miami (Ohio) 113
5-Oct at Nebraska 21
19-Oct Wisconsin 16
26-Oct Michigan State 18
2-Nov at Penn State 24
9-Nov at Indiana 62
16-Nov Ohio State 10
23-Nov at Purdue 80
30-Nov Northwestern 40
Five-Year F/+ Rk 65
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 61
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -12 / -1.7
TO Luck/Game -4.3
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 12 (9, 3)
Yds/Pt Margin** +5.7

10. Not the right year for a challenging home slate

If Illinois were capable of producing a top-40 (or so) team, this schedule would be phenomenal. Cincinnati, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Northwestern all visit Champaign, and Washington visits Soldier Field in Chicago, as well. All of those games are winnable for a top-40 team, as are road games versus Indiana and Purdue. But Illinois has been top-40 only once in the last four years, and there is almost no way this team can meet the challenge of this schedule.

There are old and new faces in all the wrong places for this team. The offense needed new blood and didn't really get it (aside from the coaching staff, anyway). The defense needed to regroup and instead has to reset.

I would never predict that a coach will get fired after two seasons, and I won't do it with Beckman here. He inherited a roster bereft of play-making ability and should get quite a bit of leeway for that. But it's difficult to see this team winning more than about three games, and if nothing else, a 5-19 record after two years will put Beckman square at the top of the Hot Seat lists in 2014.

More from SB Nation:

•SB Nation’s media days coverage, live from the scene: ACC | Big 12 | SEC

No, Johnny Manziel didn’t skip Manning Camp to party in NOLA

Six current players taking on the NCAA

Projecting every 2013 college football conference race

National recruiting coverage

Today’s college football news headlines

In This Article

Teams
Players
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.