Illinois Football: Path for the Illini to win the Big Ten West

The Illinois football team is undoubtedly having its most memorable season since its Rose Bowl run during the 2007 campaign.

In its first game as a ranked program since 2011, the Illini defeated Minnesota as four-point underdogs at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. With the win, Illinois moved to 6-1, gained bowl eligibility, and stayed atop the Big Ten West. They also increased their home game winning streak to six.

What more does the Illinois football team need to do to cap off this historic season?

Win the West, obviously.  The Illini (6-1, 3-1 BIG) lead Purdue (5-2, 3-1 BIG) by one game.  Nebraska (3-4, 2-2) follows.

With just five games remaining in the regular season slate, here is who stands in the Illini’s path to Lucas Oil Stadium:

  • October 29- @ Nebraska
  • November 5- vs. Michigan State
  • November 12- vs. Purdue
  • November 19- @ No. 5 Michigan
  • November 26- @ Northwestern

No game in the Big Ten is a “gimme” by any means, but it wouldn’t be far-fetched to expect the Illini to win three or maybe four of its final five games.

Nebraska, Michigan State, and Northwestern are should-wins.  With a potential conference title game on the line, a loss to any said team would be detrimental.

Purdue and Michigan are a different story.

Do I expect Illinois to win both of these games?  Absolutely not.  But with the way the defense and Heisman Trophy candidate Chase Brown are playing, it is certainly possible.

If the Illini can afford a loss, it would have to be at No. 5 Michigan.  Purdue is a must-win. With the Orange and Blue currently up a game on the Boilermakers, Memorial Stadium will likely hold a championship-like atmosphere when the teams collide for the Illini’s home finale on November 12.

Winning four of its final five games would have Illinois finishing the year at 10-2 overall and 7-2 in the conference. This would be enough for the Illini to win the West and play in their first Big Ten Championship game.

Don’t look too far ahead, though.  Sit back and enjoy this memorable season while you can.  Head coach Bret Bielema and the team are doing just that.