Illinois Football: Floor and ceiling for the Illini 2022 campaign

Illinois football needs to have a solid year in 2022 if the future of the program wants to be bright.

After a 5-7 campaign that gave a lot of Illini fans hope, we can’t take a step backward. We have done this with too many coaches in the past. There was potential to start their tenure with Illinois only to eventually let us down in the following years.

Bielema gave me some hope after his first season in Champaign. He was dedicated to the running game, and the emergence of defensive coordinator Ryan Walters is exciting. I think Walters could have the Illini defense good as long as he is in town.

But what is the floor and ceiling for the Illini this season? On Twitter, Big Game Boomer posted the floor and ceiling for most college football programs. Let’s just say, they aren’t optimistic about the Orange and Blue.

Illinois football shouldn’t have a low floor and low ceiling for the 2022 season.

According to Big Game Boomer, Illinois’ floor is 2-10 and their ceiling is 7-5 this season. I feel like both of these predictions are too low for this Illini squad.

The schedule Illinois is going to face this season isn’t the toughest. We will play Wyoming, Virginia, and Chattanooga in the non-conference. They had a combined 19-17 record last season. Virginia is by far the toughest of that bunch, as we got pummeled by them in 2021.

Illinois’ conference slate is tougher, but it isn’t anything too insane. We only play three ranked Big Ten teams in Wisconsin #20, Michigan State #14, and Michigan #6. The other six games consist of Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue, and Northwestern. We beat three of those teams in 2021.

Yes, there were some big departures from the team after last season, but we got most of our key guys back this year. Our running back duo of Chase Brown and Josh McCray should be one of the best in the nation. I also believe the addition of Tommy DeVito will actually elevate our quarterback play.

Let’s not discount the fact that the returning players now have a full year in the system. A 5-7 record last season was with a new coaching staff. The players now know the ins and outs of the Bielema playbook.

I also want to point out that even though Illinois went 5-7 in 2021, four out of the seven losses were by a touchdown or less. A play here or there could have turned that 5-7 record into something like 7-5 or 8-4.

Honestly, I think the floor for Illinois should be something like 4-8, which is the worst-case scenario playing out. I could see the ceiling being 8-4. It felt like something was different last season. This Illinois team wasn’t just a cakewalk. There is substance to what is going on in Champaign. 2022 will be crucial to the future of the program.