Illini football vs SIU: brutally honest preview

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Yes, we have real football again! FINALLY.

College football begins this week.  Illini football is back! Never mind, how bad Illini football were last year. Don’t think about that abomination; 2013 is a new year. takes on FCS school Southern Illinois as part of Social Media Day. All Illini fans Liking the official Fighting Illini football Facebook page and following the @Illini Football Twitter account will be entered to win a personalized Illinois jersey. Just enter by halftime Saturday. Here’s more on Social Media Day

A big storyline this year is new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, who has 32 years of coaching experience, comes over from Western Michigan. The Illini have a veteran quarterback in Nathan Scheelhaase but are very young across the board at most positions. Cubit promised to use true freshman quarterback Aaron Bailey in certain packages. The blue chip recruit from Bolingbrook choose the Illini over other potential suitors because they were the most interested in letting him play quarterback. At least more than other schools.

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Illini football analysis: Offensively, the Fighting Illini return 100 percent of their passing production, 99.5 percent of their rushing production and 80.3 percent of their receiving production from last season in 2013. The only major loss for the offense from last year to this year is WR Darius Millines,
who was second on the team with 319 receiving yards in 2012.

That sounds like it would be a really good thing…remember how bad the Illini were last year? Especially on offense? The Illini football team had one of the worst offenses in the nation, and perhaps the worst offensive line. That’s not really hyperbole. Again though, 2013 is a completely different year, and everything can change this season. Possibly. Scheelhaase begins 2013 ranked fifth on the UI career in total offense list (7,091 yards), sixth in career
passing yardage (5,296), sixth in career passing efficiency (124.5), sixth in career completions (488), eighth in career passing attempts (801) and 18th in career rushing yardage (1,795) – second among quarterbacks – at Illinois.

“We’ve stayed healthy, that’s a must this football season with as many freshmen and sophomores as we have on the roster,” Illini football coach Tim Beckman said.

“When we run out on to that football field and we touch Grange Rock, they’re going to give everything they got.” he continued.

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SIU Salukis analysis:

Illini football are 12-0 all-time against FCS opponents (formerly I-AA). Three of UI’s 12 FCS wins have come against Southern Illinois, including the only close game of the dozen, a 28-25 win over the Salukis in 1985 in the first-ever Illini game against an FCS team. 1990 is by far the most memorable game in the series as Illini running back and current BTN analyst Howard Griffith helped Illinois overcome a 21-7 first-quarter deficit by scoring three touchdowns in the second quarter and four in the third quarter.

His eight total TDs on the ground broke the NCAA records for rushing TDs in a game (8) and points scored in a game (48), which both still stand today. Overall, Griffith had 21 carries for 208 yards. Seven current Illini played in the 2010 win over SIU, including Scheelhaase, TE Evan Wilson. LB Jonathan Brown, then-DB Steve Hull, DL Tim Kynard, WR Ryan Lankford and then-QB Miles Osei.

Year Opponent Score
1985 Southern Illinois W, 28-25
1990 Southern Illinois W, 56-21
1998 Middle Tennessee W, 48-20
2002 Illinois State W, 49-22
2004 Florida A&M W, 52-13
2006 Eastern Illinois W, 42-17
2007 Western Illinois W, 21-0
2008 Eastern Illinois W, 47-21
2009 Illinois State W, 45-17
2010 Southern Illinois W, 35-3
2011 South Dakota State W, 56-3
2012 Charleston Southern W, 44-0

Illini football coach Tim Beckman talked about what it’s the like to be the small school versus a bigger school in a game like this. The underdog mentality:

“I’ve been on that side, and football is football, and you play to win. We know you have to be ready, because we’re going to get everything they’ve got,” Beckman said.

Brutally honest prediction: Illini 45, Salukis 20. It’ll be close till about the start of the third quarter. Then the Illini football team will pull away. And as we get to 8, 7, 6 minutes to go SIU will score a couple times late and make the score look better than it was.

Brutally honest record: 41-20

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Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An analyst for 95.7 The Fan, he also writes on Chicago sports media for Chicago Now. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)

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