Big Ten football is back when Illinois travels to Bloomington, Indiana for some Friday Night Lights action! Will Illinois win this game? Our staff made some predictions below:
Matt Rejc: Illinois 31 – Indiana 24
There are a few things for and against the Illini in this game, but I expect them to more or less balance each other out. Illinois has the advantage of getting nervous in Game 1 against Wyoming, and also has some confidence heading into its Friday night game in Bloomington. On the other hand, Illinois historically never plays well in the first road game of the year (think Virginia last season or the nailbiter against UConn in 2019). Illinois also has a film on its offense and defense now, while Indiana is a mystery on both sides of the ball. All of those factors should essentially cancel each other out, but I have to give Illinois the edge in terms of players and talent. I expect the Illini to take a solid first-half lead behind two touchdown receptions from Isaiah Williams, then hold off a ferocious second-half Hoosiers comeback attempt.
Kyle Tausk: Illinois 20 – Indiana 17
Originally, I had Indiana winning that game. I think this one will present a lot of challenges for Illinois despite Indiana’s talent level. For starters, this will be their first road game of the season in what I expect to be quite a noisy environment on a Friday night for the Hoosiers’ opener. Indiana also brings two new coordinators into the season, making it a tough prep for Illinois without a ton of valuable footage on either side of the ball to work with. Illinois should be able to direct the ball well, assuming they feed the beast that is Chase Brown, but the passing game might struggle against an Indiana secondary who is arguably the toughest group. most talented on the list. I have changed my mind though, I believe in this team and I believe in this coaching staff and players to not let another Week 1 disappointment happen after the loss to UTSA last season. I think it will be a very close offensive fight of a game that will leave Illini fans sweating on their couches, but Illinois finds a way to do it in the end. 2-0.
Pleas Honeywood: Illinois 28 – Indiana 24
I thought a lot about this one. Indiana has seen significant turnover in its coaching staff and reloaded with transfers after last season went awry. But it’s a home game for Indiana. Walt Bell’s offense tends to play fast, and Indiana recruited a stable of Power 5 skill position players to execute the pattern. I think Tommy DeVito will have enough time to pitch with Indiana’s suspicious pitch rush. I also think Chase Brown will have the advantage over Indiana’s top seven. I’m worried about Illini’s kicking game issues, but I’m excited about the kinds of tracks Barry Lunney Jr. has been keeping under wraps for now.
Mihir Chavan: Illinois 31 – Indiana 20
Let’s waste at least 1 season that is not ours. Last week, the defense didn’t really blitz and the offense was quite vanilla. Ryan Walter’s side should be ready to attack an attack from Walt Bell who is still learning the ropes. Despite all the talk that Walt Bell’s offense is good, it really isn’t. At Maryland, Bell’s offense has ranked in the bottom 5 every season, at Florida State in the ACC’s bottom 3, and we all know his history at UMass. If Illini’s defense is as good as I think it is, I feel another suffocation, especially with Indiana’s starting offensive line allowing 29 sacks for -169 yards last year. On offense, all I ask for is 200 rushing yards, 200 passing yards, 3 TDs and 1 FG. The pace should be up, communication issues ironed out, and Lunney should have a few tricks up his sleeve. Illinois should be 2-0 before some teams have even played a game.
Ben Pekay: Illinois 24 – Indiana 14
While it’s not the same Indiana team that was in contention for the Big Ten Championships in 2019 and 2020, they still pose a significant threat to the Illini. It’s an away game, on a Friday night after winning a resounding victory. Indiana brings in 2 new coordinators and has a quarterback battle with no clear favorite. Both teams are going to be able to try to run the ball and Chase Brown will have a major impact, but the passing game will decide who wins this game. Tommy DeVito will rely on short passing like he did in the Wyoming game but will find ways to challenge the Indiana defense from deep. I expect this game to be close after halftime, but Illinois will take control and go 2-0.
Will Charlton: Illinois 27 – Indiana 24
It’s a big game for this Illini team. In fact, I would even say a huge game. This will be the first real test for the team as they enter a road environment on a Friday night in the Hoosiers’ season opener. The Hoosiers will throw punches but I think the Illini will respond very well and the offense will prove to us that they are a force to be reckoned with. Chase Brown has another big day in the field and DeVito looks savvy. The defense is doing what it can (which turns out to be big) but the Hoosiers will sometimes find the end zone unlike Wyoming. Overall, the Illini are playing a bit better than the Hoosiers and it ends in a win. The Illini start 2-0 and get a first victory on the road to the Big Ten.
Jack Jungmann: Indiana 27 – Illinois 21
I think my colleague’s predictions so far have been pretty accurate. There’s no reason for anyone to think Illinois is going to walk into Bloomington and come away with an easy W. In the Big Ten’s first game of the season, I expect both teams to start slow. I see Illinois taking a 14-10 halftime lead, given that the Illini are already used to the speed of play. In the second half, that’s when I see the extra week of preparation and Indiana’s rest come into play. Also, I’m not totally convinced of Illinois’ ability to shut down late games (i.e. UTSA, Maryland, and Purdue from last year). I think Illinois is still a good football team, and I hope I’m wrong, but I have the Illini falling to Bloomington Friday night by a score.