A Season Hangs in the Balance
09.19.2009 3:30PM

Sitting at 1-1 the next three games will determine the fate of the Illini's season. On opening weekend, the Illini were totally destroyed by Missouri, with neither side of the ball looking particularly good. They followed up the Week 1 effort with a convincing win over Illinois State. But it was just Illinois State. Juice missed all but two snaps with a leg injury so who knows if he's over the lackluster effort against Missouri. Then take into account the loss of Martez Wilson for the remainder of the season, and the Illini have a lot to prove.

And it won't be easy with the next three games at Ohio State and then home for games against Penn State and Michigan State. There's the real possibility of the Illini coming out of that stretch with 3 losses. At 1-4 and at least three more toss up games on the schedule, the Illini would have their backs against the wall. That's why the next stretch of games will for all and intents and purposes determine Illinois' season.

From the looks of it, Ohio State is a good team. Sure they can't beat any top team outside of the Big Ten, but the conference is still their's to lose. Luckily, Illinois usually gives Ohio State all it can handle and more. Two years ago, the Illini went in to the Horseshoe and upset the Buckeyes. So its possible, but don't count on this one.

Then there's Penn State. They look better than hyped, despite losing some key players from last year's dominating team. However, they're always good for a loss against a team they shouldn't lose to. And that's where the Illini enter. As long as they come off a good performance against the Buckeyes (not necessarily a victory but a competitive game) they'll be ripe to spoil the Nittany Lions season.

Finally there's Michigan State at home for homecoming. Not surprisingly the Spartans aren't as good as hyped. The potential is there, but they lost to Central Michigan and currently are losing to Notre Dame. Before the Illini they face Wisconsin and Michigan, so it could be a battered team when they step inside Memorial Stadium. In the end this is a game the Illini must win, no matter what the results against Ohio State and Penn State. In the end it could be the beginning of a potential three game win streak with Indiana and Purdue to follow.

Obviously I'd like to see the Illini 4-1 after the next three weeks of games, but thats highly unlikely. 3-2 seems quite possible though 2-3 seems most realistic. The key is going to be "stealing" a game because after Indiana and Purdue, things are are best a toss-up if the Illini don't really show much in this upcoming three game stretch.


Illinois Schedule
September 5th vs. Missouri (St. Louis)
September 12th vs. Illinois State
September 26th @ Ohio State
October 3rd vs. Penn State
October 10th vs. Michigan State (Homecoming)
October 17th @ Indiana
October 24th @ Purdue
October 31st vs. Michigan
November 7th @ Minnesota
November 14th vs. Northwestern
November 27th @ Cincinnati
December 5th vs. Fresno State

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