Stephen Cohn: Minnesota 35, Illinois 7
At some point I need to stop drinking the Orange Kool-Aid, and I think this weekend is that time. With so much excitement and enthusiasm flowing into Illinois men’s basketball, it feels like football season is slipping away from Illini nation, which is probably for the better. Despite a quarterback change for the Gophers, I think P.J. Fleck will out-coach Lovie Smith tomorrow in Minneapolis. If Smith sticks with Jeff George Jr. at QB the entire game, Illinois won’t stand a chance. The offensive will need a spark at some point from Cam Thomas, but that does not seem likely to happen if it wouldn’t even happen versus Rutgers. Injuries piling up, QB issues and a lack of interest will all contribute to another disappointing blowout loss for the Illini.
Michael Berns: Minnesota 38, Illinois 13
I admittedly haven’t been too spot on when it comes to these predictions. I was overly confident in Illinois’ ability to beat a downtrodden Rutgers team. That couldn’t have been more inaccurate. Illinois faces a Gophers team on a three-game losing streak. The Illini ineptitude on both sides of the ball combined with Minnesota’s hunger for a Big Ten win at home should manifest itself in an easy, blow-out win for the Gophers.
Ian Gold: Minnesota 31, Illinois 21
Losing Mike Epstein hurt more than I anticipated last week against Rutgers, and will continue to haunt the Illini offense unless they commit more to Reggie Corbin. At this point, I don’t have faith in the coaching staff to honestly play the guys that give them the best chance to win - and speaking of those guys, too many of them are on the sidelines with injury. Illinois needs to play a near perfect game, and the guys they’re forced to roll with don’t have the experience to achieve that.
Matt O’Neall: Minnesota 30, Illinois 10
I think it’s going to get uglier before it gets prettier. The entire defense seemed to get hurt at the same time, and losing Mike Epstein is a huge blow to the running attack. When most of your starters are freshmen, it’s a tell tale sign that your depth chart is shallow. A depleted LB and secondary unit will open up holes for long runs for the Gopher offense, and I don’t think the Illini defense will be able to get off the field all afternoon. Illinois is on the road playing yet another Big Ten homecoming game, and I don’t expect them to be able to spoil the parade.
Brandon Birkhead: Minnesota 31, Illinois 13
I’m not feeling confident at all for this game. Minnesota is on a three game losing streak and hasn’t looked great the last few weeks. But that doesn’t matter, because Illinois is the cure for the struggling team. I expect Minnesota to get their running game going again with Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith and attack the Illini on the ground just like Rutgers was able to. I don’t think this will be a game where Illinois is ever really a threat. Just keep playing the freshman. I’ve given up on anything else positive coming from this season.
Austin Jabs: Minnesota 40, Illinois 14
Illinois could have gotten a huge confidence boost last weekend with a win against Rutgers, but while winning several statistical categories took a loss in what may have been their last winnable game in Big Ten play this season. Again, Minnesota will be able to run the ball well against the Illini and with the bevy of injuries to both sides of the ball for Illinois, they won’t have much of an answer for the Gophers. Hopefully, if nothing else, this weekend will be a solid chance for many young players to get some good playing time and help improve their skills, likely a recurring sentiment for the rest of the season.