Written and authored by NCAA Football Expert Analyst Charlie Red McDougall. Charliessports.com produces it for NCAA Football news and notes.
It will be four seasons since the Illinois athletic department lured head coach Tim Beckman away from Toledo. Former Illini coach Ron Zook sent plenty of players to the NFL, but the alumni were not satisfied. Beckman is 12-25 in three years on the sideline at Illinois. The Fighting Illini went 6-7 last season, 3-5 in Conference play. The Fighting Illini lost the Heart of Dallas Bowl 35-18 to Louisiana Tech. Fourteen starters return on both sides of the football in 2015. Beckman must take the program to the next level this season, the talent base is within reach. The Illinois Fighting Illini plays home games at the 61,000 seat Memorial Stadium on campus in Champaign, Illinois.
Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit has seven starters returning to the Illinois Offense in 2015. Talented junior Quarterback Wes Lunt (1,763) passing yards in 2014 is the leader. Senior running back Josh Ferguson (735) rushing yards, with (10) touchdowns returns to the backfield. Ferguson will be pushed for the starting job in fall camp by a JUCO transfer and true freshman Ke’ Shawn Vaughn. Wide Reciever Geronimo Allison is a home run hitter in the passing game. Cubit must get the offensive line to protect the passer a little better this season. Lunt has a big-time arm and can make any throw on the football field if he has time. The offense will also convert to a quicker passing game. The Illinois Fighting Illini went 5-8 on NCAAF Football Expert Picks last season, going over the betting odds total six times and staying under the betting odds total seven.
*The Fighting Illini offense put up 367.4 yards per game, 97th nationally.
*Illinois was 3-4 Against The Number at home in 2014.
*The Fighting Illini went 2-4 ATS on the road.
*The betting odds total went 3-4 in Champaign/Urbana.
*The University of Illinois went over the betting odds total three times on the road last season.
*The Fighting Illini stayed under the betting odds total three times on the road.
*The Illinois passing game was 49th in the FBS, averaging 249.8 yards per contest through the air.
*Illinois scored 25.9 ppg last season, 87th in College Football.
*The Fighting Illini running game was 114th in the land, averaging 117.6 yards per game.
Seven starters also return to the Illini defense. The defensive line is going to be stout led by end Jihad Ward, tackles Teko Powell and Rob Bain. The Illini D-line will be able to get a rush on the opposing quarterbacks. The Fighting Illini defense has some hard hitters at linebacker. Middle linebacker T.J. Neal is the leader of the group. The Illinois cornerback are two of the best in the Big-Ten West division. The pair will be able to play man coverage, freeing up the safeties. The Illini defense will be improved over the group that finished last in the Conference on total defense.
*The Fighting Illini defense was 112th in the FBS, giving up 456.2 yards per game last season.
*The U of I pass defense gave up an average of 217.2 yards per game, 48th in College Football.
*Illinois gave up 34.0 ppg in 2014, 109th nationally.
*The 239.2 yards per game allowed by the rush defense was 188th in the land.
*Illinois play four of their first five at home.
*The Fighting Illini also get Nebraska, Ohio State, and Wisconsin at home in Conference play.
Bovada lists the Northwestern Wildcats at over/under three and a half wins in 2015.