This looks like a pretty favorable schedule for the Illini. Four of their five two-plays are against teams projected to be in the bottom-half of the Big Ten: Iowa, Maryland, Northwestern and Penn State. The Illini will play only one of Sean Harrington's top-six Big Ten teams twice: Michigan.
The Illini also have a favorable road-only schedule that includes one really tough trip to defending Big Ten champion Indiana. The trip to Purdue is a tough one but a short bus ride. An NCAA Tournament team should win games at Nebraska and Rutgers.
The home one-play schedule is tough but fun for fans as the Illini host Michigan State, Ohio State and Big Ten favorite Wisconsin as well as Minnesota, a must-win game against a bad program.
The schedule sets up well for John Groce and an Illini program with great pressure to make an NCAA Tournament. Groce has never finished above .500 in the conference, but this schedule combined with a strong, deep returning core, led by Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Malcolm Hill, makes a 10-8 record or better possible. And really, it should be the expectation in Year Five.