The only thing predictable about sports is it's unpredictability.
In a conference as diverse and as tough as the BigTen, anything can happen. We've seen our fair share of amazing victories and heartbreaking losses, and we certainly can expect more of those this year.
However, the 2014 edition of the Fighting Illini Football Program is taking on a similar feel to the story that the 2010 edition provided us. Allow me to explain...
First, we'll start with camp. The position of Quarterback was up for grabs between a few different players who were all more than capable of handling the job (Wes Lunt, Riley O'Toole, and Aaron Bailey/Nathan Scheelhaase, Eddie McGee, Miles Osei). There was a sense of optimism about the team as the year before provided some close conference losses (Penn State&Northwestern/Michigan State, Purdue, and Northwestern).
The home opener was a breeze (35-3 over Southern Illinois) and this season's opener against Youngstown St should be just as easy. The next game was a bit closer than expected (28-22 over Northern Illinois could be a similar score against Western Kentucky...don't sleep on those guys) and our "neutral site" game was a tough loss (we'll compete with Washington like we did Missouri in '10, but in the end I think we're going to fall just short).
**Minor difference between this year and 2010 as we play our last non-conference game early, which we will win unlike the Fresno State fiasco.***
Wins over Penn State (first one ever in Happy Valley), Indiana, and Purdue (as well as a close loss to Ohio State) in 2010 had us sitting at 5-3 heading into the back half of our schedule. This year, we could see a familiar 5-3 start at the beginning of the season heading into our biggest games of the year.
In 2010, we took the Michigan Wolverines to 3OT's until their defense made a stop on our 2 point conversion in the big house. This year, we certainly could give the Buckeyes a run for their money considering they will be without Braxton Miller at QB...but I think our biggest game is against Iowa.
The Iowa game could certainly provide a great atmosphere in Memorial Stadium and a win over the Hawkeyes could mean early bowl eligibility for the Illini heading into Senior Day. Something tells me that we might see a close OT loss or win over Iowa...but you never know.
A four point loss on Senior day on a last second Minnesota score in 2010 could be replicated this season as well, with a close loss against Penn State at home.
Our bowl berth this year (if not already earned) could very easily come against Northwestern, just like it did four seasons ago (and bring the LOL trophy back to Champaign!). We won't talk about the Fresno St game, as those of you who remember will know we could summarize it like this. Bad spots of the football, poor play calling, and overall a tough loss to take. This year, we will not have that issue.
Our victory in Evanston will be the game that launches us into the post-season for the first time since 2011.
Cap off the season with a bowl victory somewhere in Texas again this year, and I'd say we would have some very happy Illini fans. 6-6 overall with a bowl victory, just like in 2010.
Can't wait to get this season started!