These Four Things: Illinois vs. Southern Illinois

Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE

Wow, our first game preview. The season is really here.

FACTS

Illinois vs. Southern Illinois

Time: 11am Central
TV: Big Ten Network, Chris Denari and J Leman
Line: Illinois -17.5
Forecast: 90 degrees, isolated thunderstorms, 30% chance of rain
Southern Illinois Preview

THESE FOUR THINGS

1. Keep It Simple, Stupid. Listen, I know there's not a lot of optimism heading into the season. You see the line up there that has the Illini as 17.5-point favorites? Yeah, well that line opened with the Illini as 24-point favorites. Which means gamblers have so little faith in the Illini that they've actually given them a touchdown worth of points back.

But the fact is, no matter how bad the Illini were last season, Southern Illinois is a team that we should beat with relative ease. Let's not forget that the Illini were terrible last season yet they still beat Charleston Southern 44-7 with a backup quarterback in the game.

The talent gap between these two teams is just too large, which means that in order to win the Illini don't have to do anything special. Just run your plays, get everybody comfortable and confident heading into next week's game against Cincinnati.

2. Feed Donovonn Young. We had problems on the offensive line last season, but one way to help your offensive line improve is to let them do what they like to do best. Run the damn football. Trust me, the offensive lineman who prefers pass-blocking to run-blocking is few and far between. And while statistics show that the Salukis weren't terrible on defense last season they did lose their best player -- I can't remember his name but I know he's on the Bengals because I watch Hard Knocks -- and they are an FCS defense.

Give the ball to Donovonn Young, let him rack up some yards, let the offensive line feel good about itself and make life a lot easier for Nathan Scheelhaase.

3. Limit Turnovers. Listen, while we've already seen an FCS school jump up and bite somebody this season, the fact is that it's very hard for an FCS team to upset an FBS team without that FBS team screwing up a lot along the way. So hold on to the ball. The only time the Salukis should be getting the ball is on punts -- and I'd like as few of those as possible! -- and kick returns. That's it.

Every time the Illini turn the ball over they'll be giving confidence to the Salukis, and you don't want to give an underdog confidence. You want to suck the life out of them as quickly as possible.

4. Let's See Some Big Plays On Defense. As we know, the defense is the biggest question mark heading into the 2013 season. While the offense may not be great, at least it has an identity, but the defense? I don't know. So on Saturday I'd like to see this unit show us what it's all about. Sure, it'll be a lot easier to do against Southern Illinois than it will be Nebraska, and we shouldn't take anything we see in this game too seriously, but damn it, make some plays.

Have some fun.

Show us something.

PREDICTIONS

Fornelli: As I said, we shouldn't take anything we see in this game too seriously. While I'm not taking Southern Illinois for granted, I don't expect the Illini to lose. Nor do I expect this game to be all that close. I don't know how many Saturday afternoons we're going to be able to enjoy around here this season, but this will be one of them. Illinois 37-10.

Primiano: My freshman year, the Fighting Illini went 2-10. That team was not very good, but on the threshold of a Rose Bowl season. Most opponents stomped them in to the dirt, but they still destroyed their FCS opponent (Eastern Illinois) to start off the season. This will not be a terribly great Illini team. I'm not saying they're on the verge of a Rose Bowl season. But I do expect them to bludgeon the Salukis. Illinois 38-10.

Cassidy: The early season optimism hasn't been crushed quite yet, but with the combo of Nate Scheelhaase and Tim Beckman, I should know better than to be positive. Just please don't mess around with this one, Illini. Illinois 33-7.

Birkhead: SIU is still an FCS school so the Illini should win comfortably, but they won't go too crazy. Lot of new pieces in play for Illinois. Illinois 30-13.

Follow The Champaign Room on Twitter at @Champaign_Room and Like us on Facebook. You can follow Tom Fornelli on Twitter at @TomFornelli.

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