After an embarrassing loss in West Lafayette in a rivalry matchup, things can’t get much worse for the Illini heading forward, right?
Luckily for the Illini, they are heading into Week 6 going head to head with a team that has struggled just as much as they have: Nebraska.
“This week is a lot about us,” said head coach Bret Bielema. “I was kind of stressing the importance of the week more than anything.”
If the orange and blue want any chance at even making a bowl game this season, they need to start with a win this Friday.
“We’re a 2-3 football team that doesn’t like where we’re at, but it is a fact of the case,” Bielema said.
Nebraska mirrors the Illini in more ways than one this year. Both teams are 2-3 overall, 0-2 in conference play and are coming off of massive losses.
Bielema and company understand where the team has been struggling most and they have been addressing those issues head on since Saturday’s subpar performance.
“The key ingredients to losing... are penalties, mental errors and turnovers,” he said. “I really tried to stress consistency last week.”
While Illinois was technically an underdog at Purdue last weekend, a blowout loss was not on this year’s bingo card for the squad. Taking accountability on every level is the first step in order to move forward as a program.
“I’ve gotta coach better, the coaches know they’ve gotta coach better and the players know they’ve gotta play better,” Bielema said. “That was a 1-3 football team that we lost to so we can’t ignore that.”
Top 25 Most Disappointing College Football Teams— Big Game Boomer (@BigGameBoomer) October 3, 2023
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While Illinois did lose a lot of talent after last year’s season concluded, it wasn’t just the on-field play. They lost a lot of leaders and that has been a difficult adjustment for this year’s team to have new players to step up into those roles.
After all, Devon Witherspoon and the Brown brothers left some very big shoes to fill.
“Sometimes players can be a little bit more easily replaced than a voice,” Bielema said. “I don’t think people understand how valuable it is for a person to say the right thing, at the right time, to the right person, in the most appropriate way.”
Regardless of that, the Illini need their product of work to make it happen on game day.
Entering this weekend as 3.5-point favorites, the orange and blue are looking to take care of business in a game they’re supposed to win on their home turf. The last thing they need at this point in the season is an upset loss.
Illinois will host Nebraska this Friday at Memorial Stadium at 7:00 p.m. CT to kickoff October football in Champaign.