Oct 6, 2012; Madison, WI, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase (2) throws during the first quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Football: Five Pivotal Games For The Fighting Illini

Its true that some people do not have high expectations for the Illinois Fighting Illini this upcoming season, but that doesn’t mean that there are no pivotal games. Michigan and Minnesota are gone and have been replaced with Michigan State and Nebraska. While no one might be super excited for either of those games, here are five pivotal games for the 2013 Illinois Fighting Illini.

5. Saturday, October 19th v.s. Wisconsin

Prime time, what a wonderful phrase. Players and teams dream of big moments in big games and, most of the time, those dreams are placed in prime time. Prime time is such a highly-acclaimed phrase that one of the greatest NFL players of all-time was nicknamed “Prime Time.” That is why Illinois’ game against Wisconsin is an important one for the Fighting Illini. Thus far, Illinois has only two prime time games and aren’t really expecting to play many of them in 2013. Also, the game against Wisconsin is the conference home opener for the Illini. Its Illinois’ chance to show the Big Ten that coming into Champiagn doesn’t equal an easy win. If Illinois doesn’t defend their home turf against the Badgers, Ohio State and Northwestern will be licking their chops for an easy win.

4. Saturday, November 2nd @ Penn State

Last season was an emotional one for the Nittany Lions. After getting a death sentence from the NCAA, PSU had a very successful season and that is why the confidence level is high in University Park. For Illinois, their game against the Nittany Lions is only their second road game of the season. The Fighting Illini need to play the same role that Penn State played in 2012. They need a big win against the Nittany Lions and show that last season might have been a fluke for PSU. If Illinois plays like they did last season, it will be another 35-7 loss.

3. Saturday, November 16th v.s. Ohio State

Does anyone expect the Fighting Illini to win this game in 2013? Didn’t think so. Nonetheless, the game against Ohio State is a pivotal one for the Fighting Illini. At this point in the season, Illinois will play one of two Buckeye teams. They will either be playing an undefeated Ohio State team that is eyeing a National Title or a one-loss Ohio State team that’s playing angry. My confidence is not too high on Illinois winning this game, but this is another chance for them to play the underdog role. Even if the Illini win one game all season, people would talk about them all offseason if their only win was against the Buckeyes.

2. Saturday, September 14th v.s. Washington

The University of Illinois has be promoting their Chicago Homecoming game against the Washington Huskies for quite some time now. This game is the biggest non-conference game for Illinois in 2013, their first prime time game of in 2013, and is at Soldier Field in Chicago. Because of all the promotion and all of the hype surrounding this game, it is a MUST WIN for the Fighting Illini. If you make a big deal about playing a game in Chicago, you better win.

1. Saturday, November 30th v.s. Northwestern

In my opinion, the Fighting Illini’s biggest game in 2013 is their season and home finale against the Northwestern Wildcats. There is no team in the Big Ten that I want to beat each and every season more than Northwestern. If Illinois is trying to reach out to the city of Chicago with their homecoming game and with their new contract with 670 the Score, they need to beat “Chicago’s Big Ten team.” Illinois is “Our State, Our Team,” and the Wildcats are standing in the way. Plus, after last year’s crushing by the Wildcats, it would be amazing to get a win against them on senior day in Champiagn.

What do you think, Illini Nation? Which game for Illinois do you think is most pivotal? Did I leave a game off the list that should be on it?

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