Tomorrow is game day in Illini land. And the first chance in multiple years to start off 1-0. Thanks to someone in the athletic department finally wising up, the Illini are opening up at home against a patsy. Instead of getting beat down my Mizzou in St. Louis year after year. Not only that, but they've somehow managed to schedule EIGHT home games. Oh...and see the starting time up above? It isn't 11 am. Finally....someone (either at UI or up in Park Ridge at the BiG offices) wised up and moved some of these games back. They're bad for the team, bad for fans, and mostly...bad for students. Who wants to get up at 8 am for a tailgate after you've been pounding Captain and Cokes at Kam's until 1 am?
There's a lot of question marks but optimism is all around this program. Wins against weak opponents like Arkansas State, South Dakota State and Western Michigan in the first 3 of 4 weeks sets the team up well for conference play - where they've drawn a manageable slate. If they *somehow* manage to get past the Arizona State Sun Devils and enter conference play 4-0 with a home game against Northwestern, look out!
I'm an eternal optimist when it comes to the Orange and Blue. I can see a best case scenario playing out where they go the go 8-4 and open up 6-0 and get ranked. Winning all four non-conference games plus the first two BiG games is doable (Northwestern and Indiana). Then all that's left to do is lose to Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin. Pick up wins against Purdue and Minnesota and we're finishing up with a big-time Bowl game.
It's time, Zooker. Let's go!