With each passing day, we are getting closer and closer to Illinois football in 2014. Even though the Fighting Illini improved their overall record in 2013, fans are just as anxious leading into the 2014 campaign. This is because the Orange & Blue are close to returning to the postseason, and many fans want to see the Illini earn a bowl bid in 2014.
The next game on our schedule preview for the 2014 season is Illinois’ homecoming game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
2013 Record: 8-5 (4-4 in the Big Ten)
Key Losses: QB Phillip Nelson, DT Ra’Shede Hageman, CB Brock Vereen, LT Ed Olson, LB Aaron Hill
Key Returners: RB David Cobb, TE Maxx Williams, DE Theiren Cockran, QB Mitch Leidner, OT Josh Campion
Player to Watch: QB Mitch Leidner
Last season was not a good one for the Minnesota passing game. There were only eight teams in college football that threw for fewer yards per game than Minnesota did in 2013. Between Nelson and Leidner, Minnesota averaged 148.1 passing yards and just over ten completions per game. The success of the Gopher offense in 2014 will be tied to how Mitch Leidner performs in his sophomore season. In just 78 attempts last season, he only threw a single interception which bodes well for Gopher fans. The Illini secondary is young (just like Leidner). Therefore, the Orange & Blue Homecoming game could be “the Illini secondary v.s. Mitch Leidner.”
Prediction: Minnesota 27 – Illinois 24
It’s true that homecoming weekend brings a different atmosphere compared to just any other Saturday. However, teams don’t get an automatic win because it’s their homecoming game. This could end up being Illinois’ closest game of the season. Wes Lunt and the Illini offense should look good, despite only scoring 24 points. Tim Beckman has talked thus far in training camp about the inconsistency of the kicking game. That inconsistency might be the thing to bite the Orange & Blue in this game.
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