Illinois Football: Predicting how the Illini will finish the 2023 season

Sep 16, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Penn State head coach James Franklin (right) shakes hands with Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Bret Bielema after a Penn State victory at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 16, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Penn State head coach James Franklin (right) shakes hands with Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Bret Bielema after a Penn State victory at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

It was an ugly offensive performance by the Illinois football team against Penn State, but this loss is not the end of the world.

While I believe there are some adjustments the Illini need to make moving forward, I do still believe this could be a good season. There are plenty of win opportunities ahead in the Big Ten schedule.

2023 season prediction update for the Illinois football program

  • Illinois vs. Florida Atlantic – (Illinois 37 – FAU 17)

Florida Atlantic isn’t a very good team. They just got steamrolled on the road against Clemson. The Owl’s offense hasn’t been very good either. In the Clemson game, they threw for 210 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions.

Illinois’ defense should be able to shut down Florida Atlantic. They also have a middle-of-the-pack pass defense and a sub-80 rush defense. I think the Illini will be able to get right as well.

  • Illinois at Purdue – (Illinois 24 – Purdue 21)

The Boilermakers have been on the struggle bus this season, much like Illinois. It is an adjustment period for the program. They fell to a solid Fresno State team, took down a weak Virginia Tech squad, and couldn’t get out of their own way against Syracuse.

I believe this game will be close to the end. Both teams have learning defenses and question marks at quarterback. They are honestly pretty equal teams at this point. I am going to put Illinois over the top, though. I think we have a better ground attack and defensive line.

  • Illinois vs. Nebraska – (Illinois 20 – Nebraska 6)

After the game on Saturday against Penn State, I am not sure what the Illini will do at quarterback moving forward. But one of the only teams in the Big Ten that has bigger quarterback questions is Nebraska.

The Cornhuskers are not a very good team right now. Their defense is coming around under Matt Rhule, but the offense still struggles mightily. That Northern Illinois game was close in the second half, and the Huskies are a bad team. I think Illinois is a better unit than Nebraska and will force a few turnovers in this contest.

  • Illinois at Maryland – (Illinois 16 – Maryland 24)

I honestly thought Maryland was going to be a pretty good team this season. That doesn’t seem to be the case. This is a program that starts extremely slow but turns it on in the second half.

It is a road contest, so that is always tough in the Big Ten. I think Illinois ends up forcing a few turnovers, but a tough Terrapins defense gives the Illini some problems. I could see us dropping this game in a close one.

  • Illinois vs. Wisconsin – (Illinois 13 – Wisconsin 24)

Another team I thought would be much better is Wisconsin. The Badgers snagged Tanner Mordecai in the transfer portal, but he has proved to be average for them.

Illinois’ weakness on defense right now is stopping the run, although I thought we looked much better against Penn State. Wisconsin’s strength is the run game. That might be tough for the Illini. This could be an ugly game. I could see the Badgers running attack opening up some passing lanes for Mordecai. This might doom the Illini.

  • Illinois at Minnesota – (Illinois 13 – Minnesota 7)

Minnesota is about where I thought they would be this season. A bad quarterback situation and a decent defense.

The Golden Gophers put up a fight against North Carolina, but that was due to the defense. Their offense couldn’t put points on the board. I think that will be the case against Illinois too. The Illini offense might not be able to move the ball, but neither will Minnesota’s offense. This is going to be an extremely low-scoring game. I think Illinois can go on the road and get a win. Our quarterbacks are better.

  • Illinois vs. Indiana – (Illinois 17 – Indiana 14)

I came into this season thinking Indiana was going to be awful. Well, they are a little better than my initial thoughts. This team has a defense, and they can spark on offense every once in a while.

The Hoosiers quarterback situation is still developing, and they don’t have a ton of weapons. Their defense has held Ohio State to 23 points and a high-flying Louisville offense to 21 points. So, this could be another low-scoring game for the Illini. With it being in Champaign, I like Illinois to win this one.

  • Illinois at No. 25 Iowa – (Illinois 21 – Iowa 10)

As of right now, Illinois only plays two ranked teams this season. But, honestly, Iowa shouldn’t be ranked No. 25. This team struggled against a bad Utah State team to open the season, and then they barely nipped Iowa State last week. The Cyclones just lost to Ohio 10-7.

I thought Iowa would be better. Their offense is not very good, but they do have a decent defense. I think Illinois has a chance to win a solid Big Ten road game against the Hawkeyes. Cade McNamara is not nearly as dangerous as I thought he would be for Iowa. Let’s load the box and shut down the Iowa run.

  • Illinois vs. Northwestern – (Illinois 38 – Northwestern 9)

Boy howdy, do you want to see bad? Just look at the Northwestern program. They are 1-2 this season, and their offense has looked terrible. This is not a good team at all.

I think Illinois will be able to shut down the Northwestern offense. They might even be able to get a score for our offense as well. Illinois should be able to move the ball up and down the field against the Wildcats. I expect this to be a solid ending to a decent season for the Orange and Blue.

Yup, I said it. If you add up the wins and losses, I think Illinois can still, realistically, finish the season at 8-4.

Next. 5 observations from the Illini loss to Penn State. dark