Illinois’ schedule might not be so tough after all
BY STEVE GREENBERG Staff Reporter October 20, 2013 12:20AM
Updated: November 21, 2013 7:05AM
CHAMPAIGN — Before the start of Illinois’ season, it was awfully difficult to look at the schedule and find more than a couple of wins.
Southern Illinois and Miami (Ohio), fine. But once Big Ten games started? There were no especially promising league matchups, let alone gimmes.
Let’s take a fresh look. Next week’s opponent, Michigan State, didn’t get into the red zone offensively on Saturday until the fourth quarter of a snoozefest victory over awful Purdue. Doesn’t that suggest the Illini have a chance to outscore the Spartans? Of course it does.
After that, Ohio State is the only ranked team the Illini will face. The others — Penn State, Indiana, Purdue and disappointing Northwestern — are, let’s face it, pretty average teams. Or worse.
Gimmes? Still none. Promising matchups? There are several.
Sophomore V’Angelo Bentley, a starting cornerback and standout return man, exited the game in the first quarter with an injury to his left leg and was on the sideline in a walking boot before the half was over. Bentley entered the Wisconsin game ranked fifth nationally in kick return average (32.1) and 14th in punt return average (15.8).
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase’s 267 total yards against Wisconsin put him past Jack Trudeau and into third place on Illinois’ career total offense list, with 8,697 yards. That leaves him 1,897 yards behind all-time leader Juice Williams.