Big Ten football is back when Illinois travels to Bloomington, Indiana for some Friday Night Lights Action! Will Illinois win this game? Our staff made some predictions down below:
Matt Rejc: Illinois 31 - Indiana 24
There’s a few things going for and against the Illini in this matchup, but I expect them to more or less even out. Illinois has the advantage of getting the first game jitters out against Wyoming, and also have some confidence rolling into their Friday night matchup in Bloomington. On the other hand, Illinois historically never plays well in the first road game of the year (think about Virginia last season or the nailbiter against UConn in 2019). Illinois also has film on both its offense and defense now, while Indiana is a mystery on both sides of the ball. All of these factors should essentially cancel out, but I have to give the advantage to Illinois in terms of players and talent. I expect the Illini to build up a solid lead in the first half behind two Isaiah Williams touchdown receptions, then hold off a fierce comeback attempt by the Hoosiers in the second half.
Kyle Tausk: Illinois 20 - Indiana 17
Originally, I had Indiana winning this game. I think this one will present a lot of challenges for Illinois despite what Indiana’s talent level may be. For starters, this will be their first road game of the season in what I expect to be a pretty loud environment on a Friday night for the Hoosiers’ first game. Indiana also brings two new coordinators into the season, making it a difficult prep for Illinois without a ton of valuable film on either side of the ball to work with. Illinois should be able to run the ball well, assuming they feed the beast that is Chase Brown, but the passing game could struggle against an Indiana secondary that is without doubt the most talented group on the roster. I’ve changed my mind though, I believe in this team and I believe in this coaching staff and players to not let another Week 1 letdown happen after the UTSA loss last season. I think it’ll be a really tight, offensive struggle of a game that leaves Illini fans sweating on their couches, but Illinois finds a way to get it done in the end. 2-0.
Pleas Honeywood: Illinois 28 - Indiana 24
I thought hard about this one. Indiana has had major turnover in their coaching staff and reloaded with transfers after last season went sideways. But this is a home game for Indiana. Walt Bell’s offense tends to play fast and Indiana has recruited a stable of Power 5 skill position players to execute the scheme. I think Tommy DeVito will have enough time to throw with Indiana’s suspect pash rush. I also think Chase Brown will have the advantage over the Indiana front seven. I worry about the Illini’s kicking game woes, but I am excited about what kinds of chunk plays Barry Lunney Jr. has been keeping under wraps for this very moment.
Mihir Chavan: Illinois 31 - Indiana 20
Let’s spoil atleast 1 season that is not our own. Last week, the defense didn’t really blitz and the offense was quite vanilla. Ryan Walter’s squad should be ready to attack a Walt Bell offense that is still learning the ropes. For all the talk that Walt Bell’s offense is good, it really isnt. At Maryland, Bell’s offense ranked in the bottom 5 each season, at Florida State the bottom 3 of the ACC, and well we all know his story at UMass. If the Illini defense is as good as I believe it to be, I sense another smothering especially with the Indiana’s starting offensive line giving up 29 sacks for -169 yards last year. On offense, all I ask for is 200 yards rushing, 200 yards passing, 3 TD’s, and 1 FG. Pace should be higher, communications issues fixed, and Lunney should have some tricks up his sleeve. Illinois should be 2-0 before some teams have even played a game.
Ben Pekay: Illinois 24 - Indiana 14
Although this isn’t the same Indiana team that was a contender for the big ten championships in 2019 and 2020, they still pose a sizable threat to the Illini. It is an away game, on a Friday night after coming off a blowout win. Indiana brings in 2 new coordinators and has a quarterback battle with no clear favorite. Both teams are going to be able to try to run the ball and Chase Brown will have a major impact, but the passing game will decide the winner of this game. Tommy DeVito will rely on the short passes as he did in the Wyoming game but will find ways to challenge the Indiana defense deep. I expect this game to be close after halftime but Illinois will take control and go to 2-0.
Will Charlton: Illinois 27 - Indiana 24
This is a big game for this Illini team. In fact I would even say a huge game. This will be the first real test for the team as they go into a road environment on a Friday night in the Hoosiers first game of the season. The Hoosiers are going to come out throwing punches but I think the Illini will respond very well and the offense will prove to us that they’re a force to be reckoned with. Chase Brown has another big day on the ground and DeVito looks savvy. The defense does what it can (which proves big) but the Hoosiers will find the end zone a few times unlike Wyoming. Overall, the Illini play just a bit better than the Hoosiers and that ends up with a win. The Illini start 2-0 and get an early Big Ten road win.
Jack Jungmann: Indiana 27 - Illinois 21
I think my colleague’s predictions thus far have been pretty spot on. There’s no reason anyone should think Illinois is just gonna walk into Bloomington and leave with an easy W. In the first Big Ten game of the season, I expect both sides to start slow. I see Illinois jumping out to a 14-10 lead at half, being that the Illini are already used to game speed. In the second half, this is where I see Indiana’s extra week of preparation and rest coming into play. Also, I’m not totally sold on Illinois’s ability to close games late (i.e. UTSA, Maryland and Purdue from last year). I think Illinois is still a good football team, and I hope I get proven wrong, but I have the Illini falling in Bloomington Friday night by a score.