ILLINOIS: One Day and Counting

When the Hoosiers' 2008 schedule came out, most thought games against Ball State, Michigan State, Minnesota and Iowa were all winnable, but few thought the road trip to Champaign would turn out very well. Does IU have a chance to spring an upset? HoosierNation.com continues its day-by-day preview of this weekend's match-up with "One Bold Prediction" about the game against the Illini…

It's a good news-bad news situation for the Hoosiers as they prepare for Saturday night's match-up with the Illini.

The bad news is that after four straight losses, Indiana is probably facing an even tougher assignment than any of its recent set-backs. Illinois is coming off a Rose Bowl berth in 2007 and has many of its primary playmakers from a year ago are still in place. When the Indiana schedule came out, most assumed IU would beat Ball State at home and thought recent match-ups against Michigan State, Minnesota and Iowa were "winnable". But very few thought Coach Bill Lynch's team could go into Champaign and knock off the Illini.

This weekend's assignment is even more daunting considering the ankle injury that quarterback Kellen Lewis suffered in the first half of last week's 45-9 loss to Iowa. While the junior hasn't been ruled out of this weekend's game, he's probably less than 50/50 to play, and if he does get on the field he won't be 100 percent. Lewis' injury is just the most recent of a slew of injuries to Hoosier starters that has played a part in a disappointing first half of the season.

So what's the good news? If you're a glass-half-full type of person, Indiana has a chance to turn around its season if it can figure out a way to knock off the Illini for the second straight time in Champaign. The Hoosiers won 34-32 two years ago in their last trip to Illinois, and Illinois' defense hasn't been nearly as stout as it was a year ago. Minnesota went into Champaign a week ago and handled Coach Ron Zook's team, suggesting it's not out of the realm of possibility that IU could do the same.

For that to happen, Indiana is going to have to put points on the board. Illinois is averaging more than 33 points and 480 yards/game, and considering IU just got done giving up nearly 300 yards and 28 points to Iowa in the second half alone, it's a real stretch to think that the Hoosiers will be able to shutdown the Illini offense.

"We have to score to beat these guys," Lynch said.

Illinois doesn't have All-Big Ten tailback Rashard Mendenhall this time around, but it does still have talented quarterback Juice Williams, who figures to give IU fits with his ability to run it and throw it. There was a time where Williams didn't have the ability to beat quality teams with his arm, but he's helped the Illini go from 11th in the Big Ten in passing to 1st in just one season.

"He's throwing the ball very accurately, making big plays, making good decisions," Lynch said. "He's gotten bigger and stronger, and it looks like he has the same speed. He's evolved into a really good quarterback and seems to be getting better all the time."

So does Indiana have enough to keep this game close? Based on recent results, probably not. Barring some big scoring plays from the special teams and/or the defense, the Hoosier offense hasn't done enough as of late to suggest it can keep pace with the Illini.

HoosierNation.com Prediction: Illinois 41, Indiana 17

What's coming up:
On Monday - Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Names to Know
On Wednesday – Three Key Match-Ups
On Thursday – Two Big Concerns
On Friday – One Bold Prediction

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