With Illinois playing a rare Friday game tomorrow night, the Football Field Forecast has been moved up a day.
With Illinois and Fresno State already assured of a bowl birth, and likely locked into the Texas and Kraft Fight Hunger bowls respectively, both teams are battling for pride.
Illinois is hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s embarrassing Memorial Stadium loss to Fresno State, and the Bulldogs do not want to head to the postseason coming off a home loss of their own.
Due to prior obligations, Writing Illini’s Gameday Binoculars will not be live but posted on Saturday morning.
Writing Illini will feature lives updates of the Fresno State-Illinois game on its Twitter page.
Mikel Leshoure Not Thinking About NFL
As the season winds down, a lot of attention has turned to Mikel Leshoure and whether the running back will return for his senior year or leave for the NFL.
With his dominant performance in 2010, Leshoure is a legitimate first or second round pick. He is 8th in the nation in rushing yards and will move up the chart since Illinois is still a game behind most teams.
Leshoure, however, says he is not thinking about the NFL right now. In an interview with the Chicago Sun Times, Leshoure said:
I’m not even thinking about what I’m going to do after the season at all. Coach told me there’s definitely a decision to make. But the No. 1 thing is finishing the season — worrying about the next game and the bowl game after that.
While no one could fault Leshoure for leaving for the NFL (the risk of injury and the promise of a big paycheck would be on anyone’s mind), it is very possible he could decide to stay.
Leshoure could break Illinois’ single season rushing record this year, but his numbers could be even better next season, possibly Heisman level, with all of Illinois’ offensive line returning and the tight ends and fullbacks gaining a year of experience.
For now, it is best for Illinois fans to do as Leshoure is doing and simply focus on this season and enjoy the ride.
Writing Illini Projection
Illinois starts out the game strong when it recovers a Fresno State fumble early on its opening drive.
The Illinois offense capitalizes on the turnover to score the game’s first touchdown.
Fresno State answers with a field goal, but a big kick return from Illinois keeps the momentum on the Illini’s side.
In the second quarter, the Illinois offense starts to run the ball down the Bulldogs’ throats.
The Illini score two touchdowns to go up big, but Fresno State mounts a late touchdown drive to close out the half.
Illinois struggles in the third quarter as the time change and fatigue take their toll, and the Bulldogs take advantage with another touchdown to bring the game to within four.
In the final quarter, Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino orders up another one of his trick plays that worked so well earlier in the season to set up the Illini’s first points of the second half.
Fresno State answers right back with a field goal, and then gets a big stop on defense.
The Bulldogs score a touchdown, but their two-point conversion to tie the game fails.
Illinois kicker Derek Dimke drills a big field goal on the Illini’s next drive, but Fresno State is still only down by 6.
On the Bulldog’s final drive, Illinois’ defense, which had taken some criticism for allowing points in Big Ten play, makes a key interception, and the Illini run out the clock to get the win.
Illinois 31, Fresno State 26
Illini Game MVP Prediction
Running Back Mikel Leshoure
Fresno State Game MVP Prediction
Quarterback Robbie Rouse
Some Predictions from the Credentialed
→ Tom Young: (News Gazette): Illinois 42, Fresno State 28
→ Scott Powers (ESPN-Chicago): Illinois 42, Fresno State 27
→ Adam Rittenberg (ESPN): Illinois 34, Fresno State 28
Tomorrow’s kickoff is set for 9:15 p.m. central time.
The game is on ESPN2.
Writing Illini will have its play-by-play blogging up the next morning and live drive updates on its Twitter page.
Tags: A.J. Jenkins Derek Dimke Eddie McGee Football Illini Illini Football Illinois Illinois Fighting Illini Football Illinois Football Jarred Fayson Jason Ford Martez Wilson Mikel Leshoure Nathan Scheelhaase Paul Petrino Ron Zook Terry Hawthorne University Of Illinois Vic Koenning