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What We Want To See: Illinois vs. Kent State

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As the football season opens Saturday, what do fans want to see from the Illini as they open up year 3 under Head Coach Lovie Smith?

NCAA Football: Illinois at South Florida Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

After eight long months the return of college football is finally here. Even Illinois fans — in their third year of a program overhaul — have a little more pep in their step coming in to opening kickoff.

The Fighting Illini are entering the season with a shiny new offensive coordinator who changed the offense at Arizona seemingly overnight and with a new quarterback under center. The question that remains, however, is what do we need to see out of Lovie Smith’s team against Kent State?

Improved Offense

This is where everyone will inevitably first look for improvement Saturday. The Illini offense was stagnate for most of 2017. In fact, its opening contest against Ball State was a mere three-point victory, thanks to a Jamal Milan blocked field goal. Nineteen total touchdowns over a 12-game schedule is hardly Big Ten caliber, and Illinois will need to show the ability to score at will against Kent State to ease fans’ apprehension regarding another season of minimal offense.

What Can Rod Smith Do?

I am biased, so take it for what it is, but I believe Illinois made a sneaky good and wildy underrated hire with Rod Smith replacing Three Play McGee. From 2016 to ‘17, Rod Smith’s offenses added 22 rushing touchdowns and six passing touchdowns while having more than 100 more offensive yards per game. That is no small feat.

Rod Smith is known to work wonders with quarterbacks, so there could be big things in store for AJ Bush in 2018, assuming he starts all 12 games.

Will AJ Bush Live Up To His Hype?

Bush has, rightly or wrongly, been hyped up by the Illini media sphere. I am guilty of it, too. The videos circulating Twitter and YouTube show a strong and accurate quarterback who can move around when needed. This is the exact type of player Rod Smith has had success with in the past.

Will AJ Bush have success in the air against a quick Kent State defense? If practice film is any indication, he should have a solid debut for Lovie Smith and the Illini faithful.

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