2012 record: 2-5 (0-3)
2011 record: 7-6 (2-6), beat UCLA in Fight Hunger Bowl
2011 Sagarin: 55 (IU was 139)
2012 Sagarin: 108 (IU is 77)
Coach: Tim Beckman (first season, 2-5)
Series: Illinois leads45-21-2
Last IU win: 10-17-2009 (27-14 in Bloomington)
Last Illinois win: 10-8-2011 (41-20 in Bloomington)
Last IU win in Champaign: 10-7-2006 (34-32)
Gametime: noon Saturday
TV: BTN (Kevin Kugler, Chris Martin, John Jansen).
Radio: IU Radio Network (Don Fischer, Buck Suhr, Joe Smith)
Line: Illinois by 1.
Blog: The Champaign Room
Game notes: Indiana, Illinois
Indiana steps back into the Big Ten schedule after losing a heartbreaker at Navy. The trip to Illinois probably is IU's best remaining opportunity for a win. I'm certainly not writing off games against Iowa, Purdue, or even Wisconsin, but IU will be a significant underdog in all of its November games. As noted above, the early line shows Illinois favored by one. This is IU's most favorable point spread in a Big Ten road game since 2007, when IU was a two point favorite at Northwestern (and lost by three). The Illini have an identical record to IU. Illinois is 2-5 overall, 0-3 in the Big Ten. Their only wins are against a MAC school (granted, Western Michigan is better than UMass) and a FCS opponent. Nevertheless, while IU has been competitive in each of its five losses, that hasn't been the case for Illinois. The closest the Illini have come in one of their losses has been by 17, in a 31-14 loss to Wisconsin. The Illini lost 52-24 at home to Louisiana Tech, 44-0 at Michigan, and 35-7 at home to Penn State. While IU has scored at least 24 points in all of its games, 24 has been Illinois's high water mark in games against FBS opponents (a mark the Illini reached in the win over WMU and the loss to La. Tech).
If any of this sounds like I'm taking Illinois lightly, I'm not. Former Illinois coach Ron Zook was an excellent recruiter, quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has loads of experience, and the Illini have had the opportunity to regroup during their bye week. It's extremely unlikely that either IU or Illinois will qualify for the postseason this year, and each team presumably is going to treat this game as its best opportunity to show progress. First year Illinois coach Tim Beckman certainly doesn't want to go 0-8 in his first year replacing a underachieving but decent predecessor. Kevin Wilson doesn't want to take the collar in each of his first two seasons.
Another factor is that IU historically has played very poorly in Champaign. IU's lone win there since 1979 came in 2006, and required a furious comeback and a game-winning field goal at the gun. Since then, IU has been humiliated in Champaign by mediocre Illinois teams: 55-13 in 2008 and 43-13 in 2010. I'll admit it. That Navy game sapped most of my optimism for this season. The Hoosiers have scored a bunch of points and have been in every game. While a couple of weeks ago that might have given me hope, at this point I'm anticipating the Hoosiers laying an egg. Hopefully my psyche will have recovered by the time I write my Friday preview, and hopefully the team is in a better place than I am.