Well folks, it's finally here. Gameday is in less than 24 hours away and anticipation has reached its boiling point in Champaign. The culmination of a long summer full of hype and excitement kicks off tomorrow morning against the Penguins from Youngstown State. Below our staff writers give their predictions for who's going to win the game, but we want to hear from you too! Be sure to give us your pick in the comments section.
Jim Vainisi --- Illinois 48, YSU 17
Wes Lunt shines in his Illini debut as he throws for 3 scores. Josh Ferguson also gets in on the action and scores touchdowns both on the ground and through the air.
Mark Primiano --- Illinois 38, YSU 14
Youngstown State is by no means a bad FCS school. But they are an FCS school with a bad defense. That sounds like the perfect tuneup opponent for the Illini to open the season against.
Matt Silich --- Illinois 45, YSU 20
Youngstown State's offense sounds like it'll be good enough to put up some points, but I fully expect the Illini to dominate this game from the opening kickoff.
Aaron Rench --- Illinois 41, YSU 10
My anticipation gland is about to explode. This game is going to be awesome -- like, literally awe-inspiring! I can't wait for this game. The classic college football heat, Josh Ferguson choosing between multiple running lanes, the commentators discussing Beckman's chances of another season, the Illini accidentally blowing a down field coverage... the stupid-easy win. Yeah, these FCS games are the best!
Colin Whitchurch --- Illinois 40, YSU 21
In Week 1, we should see doses of an Illini offense that figures to entertain throughout the season, at the very least. Expect Wes Lunt & Co. to get rolling early and often against a Youngstown State team that figures to be able to get a few scores itself against the Illini defense.
Bryce Smith --- Illinois 49, YSU 10
We will easily win this game against the Penguins and all the quarterbacks will get time to show us what they've got to offer.
Brandon Cain --- Illinois 38, YSU 17
The Illini defense will be able to contain Youngstown State RB Martin Ruiz and the secondary will not be exposed by top WR Jelanie Berassa's return from a torn ACL. Bill Cubit's offense will exploit the Penguins' defense on the outside with short passes and runs by Josh Ferguson.
Trevor Vallese --- Illinois 34, YSU 21
Illinois jumps out to a 17-0 halftime lead but the Penguins score some garbage-time points against the second-stringers in the fourth quarter. This final score is a lot less indicative of what a solid game the Illini defense will actually play, and a lower-scoring game than some are predicting. Kind of like that Western Michigan opener a few years back. I expect most of the Illini's points to come through the air; the Penguins gave up an average of 246 passing yards per game last year, and the last time Lunt faced an FCS opponent he went 11-for-11 with 129 yards.
BONUS PREDICTION: V'Angelo Bentley will have a kick return TD, punt return TD, interception, or pick six. Or all of the above if you're feeling crazy.
Again, drop by below to tell us what YOU think is going to happen!