All has not been well in Champaign of late.
It all started when a 2011 squad that seemed promising with a 6-0 start lost its final six regular season games, leading to Ron Zook's probably deserved firing. They looked around, they searched and they found ... Tim Beckman?
Beckman's Illini crashed and burned in 2012, going 2-10, 0-8 in Big Ten play. As Off-Tackle Empire wrote, it was embarrassing on the field and sometimes off it as well. After just one year, Illini fans were already starting to get antsy about Beckman's job status.
The general consensus is that you can't fire a coach after one year unless something really awful happens. Well, it's year two, and Beckman will need to drastically improve his team to turn off the boilers under his seat.
Let's take a look at their schedule and see if things are looking any better in 2013:
2013 Illinois schedule
Projections from Football Outsiders' 2013 college football almanac.
There is good news for the Illini: they were BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD offensively in 2012 with two co-offensive coordinators, who spent most of the year literally splitting responsibilities by down -- a set-up nobody's sure anybody had ever attempted before Illinois. Respected offensive mind Bill Cubit, most recently head coach at Western Michigan comes in to shake things up on offense. He'll have pieces to work with, if he can turn Nathan Scheelhaase into something resembling the dual-threat he was as a freshman and Riley O'Toole can continue completing passes at an extremely high rate. And the defense last year for Illinois didn't look like an 0-8 defense.
The problem is still looking down Illinois' schedule and finding wins. There are the two non-conference games they should win easily, a game against an FCS team and Miami (Ohio), which gets them to their total of two non-conference wins from last year.
But once the Big Ten schedule starts, they have three home games against teams that should be elite in 2013, and a fourth against a Northwestern team that ransacked them 50-14 last season and loses no critical parts. Their most winnable games are obviously against Indiana and Purdue, but those are both road matchups.
If Illinois can squeeze out an upset at home or grab those two road games, Beckman will have a case to make for his job. If not, his team will be in the two-to-three win region once again, and that's bad news.