WIN, LOSE OR DRAW: Illinois

Part seven of a 12-part series outlining Indiana football’s opponents this season.

INDIANA ILLINOIS FOOTBALL

Illinois quarterback Juice Williams evades Indiana’s defense last season. Chris Howell | Herald-Times

OPPONENT: at Virginia

DATE: Oct. 17

TIME: 7 p.m.

TV: Big Ten Network

TICKETS: Click here.

FOLLOW THE TEAM: Illinois’ official site.

Coverage from IlliniHQ.com, the Illinois-related site of the Champaign News-Gazette.

HISTORY VS. INDIANA: Indiana is 21-43-2 against Illinois. The teams last met on Oct. 8, 2008 in Champaign, with Illinois winning 55-13. Indiana last won in 2006, 34-22.

WHO ARE THEY: Illinois is considered the third-best team in the Big Ten this season, behind Ohio State and Penn State, but will be hard-pressed to make a serious challenge for conference supremacy because of a difficult schedule. The Illini’s schedule in 2009 is severely front-loaded, beginning with Missouri in St. Louis and continuing with back-to-back-to-back games against Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State. Illinois also goes to Minnesota and Cincinnati. Illinois should be better than its 5-7 season in 2008, but probably no better than seven or eight wins.

OFFENSIVE STAR: His name is Juice, so he has to be a star, right? Juice Williams, Illinois’ fouth-year starting quarterback, is just an absolute marvel to watch. He’s Kellen Lewis, but stronger and with much better decision-making ability. He should become the program’s alltime passing leader at some point this season, with many of those passes going to wide receiver Arrelious Benn, the 6-foot-2 junior has just absolute blazing speed. Williams’ experience will be key as the team navigates the schedule and he could be on the run more, as the Illini rebuild the offensive line.

DEFENSIVE STAR: Junior Martez Wilson is moving inside to middle linebacker, probably the most hallowed position at Illinois, and is well-prepared for the transition. He was 14th in the Big Ten in tackles per game last season at outside linebacker and also had a pair of fumble recoveries. He seems to be play better in big games, and at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, will be able to handle the beating a middle linebacker takes in the trenches. Key for him will be how he not only plays his position, but guides an otherwise very young linebacker group.

WHY INDIANA WILL WIN: Illinois could very well go into this game 2-3 or 1-4, with three-straight losses to three of the Big Ten’s top teams. If that’s the case, it will be a wounded and emotionally-distraught Illinois team coming into Bloomington for homecoming and a rare third night game. With Illinois’ weaknesses at linebacker and along the defensive line, look for Indiana to establish a running game and have that open up some play-action passes and throws across the middle. On defense, Indiana will have already seen Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor and Virginia’s Quarterback TBA, so they’ll have experience dealing with aggressive dual-threat quarterbacks like Williams.

WHY ILLINOIS WILL WIN: During last year’s blowout win, Benn had seven receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown. Illinois had 292 yards rushing, and another 271 through the air. Ben Chappell struggled to get any sort of consistency and the game was over at halftime. Williams is still the quarterback, Benn still the top receiver and cornerback remains a position of much concern for Indiana. If the Hoosiers cannot cover Benn, it’s going to be a very long night for Indiana.

NOW YOU: Call it — win, lose or draw? Well, ok, just win or lose. State your reason, as well.

7 comments

  1. I just don’t think Juice is that good. If the IU defensive coaches can come up with a scheme to contain the kid, let him pass the ball. Personally, I would bring a safety up and have him sticking to Juice and that would be his sole responsibility! I It is Homecoming!!!

  2. I swear Juice Williams is 100 years old! It just seems like he’s been there for ever and ever.

    Given the write up, which indicates that both defenses are weak, I expect a shoot-out type game. I think we will lose, but will put forth a good effort and stay in it. Predicted season record game’s end: 4-3.

  3. I seem to remember that the game at Illinois during Antwaan Randle-El’s career included repeated and intentional cheap shots aimed at taking him out of the game. Wouldn’t it be a shame if a good, clean hit took Williams out of this one?

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