The dog days of summer are nearing the halfway point, and the Illinois Fighting Illini football season starts in exactly one month. As head coach Tim Beckman put it at the Big Ten Media Days, many fans are anxious heading into the 2013 season. The Illini didn’t do well in Beckman’s first season as head coach and fans are looking for some kind of a turnaround in year two. So let’s start breaking down the schedule game-by-game. First up: The Southern Illinois Salukis.
2012 Record: 6-5 (5-3 in the MVC)
Key Losses: RB Steve Strother, WR David Lewis, LB Joe Okon
Key Returners: QB Kory Faulkner, TE MyCole Pruitt, RB Mika’il McCall
Player to Watch: QB Kory Faulkner
Yes, the Southern Illinois Salukis might be from the FCS, but they can still pack a punch offensive with quarterback Kory Faulkner at the helm. Faulkner is a 6’4″, 227-pound senior, and he’ll be looking to build off a pretty good junior season. Last season, he threw for 1,865 yards and eleven touchdowns with a 112 QB rating. SIU’s success will be directly related to Faulkner performance. If Illinois’ defense can force Faulkner to throw some interceptions, it could be a long day for SIU and a good start to the year for the Fighting Illini.
Prediction: Illinois 24 – Southern Illinois 14
As we know from Tim Beckman’s interviews at the Big Ten Media Days, the SIU game is the only thing on the minds of the Illinois players and coaches heading into the 2013 season. Last season, the Fighting Illini played one game against a FCS opponent and won 44-0 without Nathan Scheelhasse due to injury. Expect Illinois to pull out an easy win against the Salukis, and it will be interesting to see how the offense does in Bill Cubit’s first game as Illinois’ offensive coordinator.
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