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After a 2019 season, which saw them reach their first bowl game in 6 years, and came with one of the biggest upsets of the year, beating Wisconsin.

Lovie Smith and the Illinois football team are expecting big things in 2020. But everybody else, well it seems like they aren’t. I’m here to tell you why the ceiling for the Illinois Football can be a lot higher than most think.

People are quick to write off the Illini. Despite upsetting Wisconsin and going bowling last season, Illinois also suffered multiple disappointing losses to Eastern Michigan and Northwestern.

Let’s also not forget that QB Brandon Peters missed nearly 3 games with multiple concussions. This left WR Josh Imatorbhebhe, who missed 3 games as well, top defensive player LB Jake Hansen who missed the final 4, and soon to be starting RB Mike Epstein missed the entire season.

The team was riddled with injuries for much of the year and were still able to stay afloat and grind out a bowl appearance. 

The schedule for the Illini in 2019 will be easier as well, with their first six opponents being teams who failed to secure bowl eligibility in 2019. With a non-conference slate the includes Illinois State, UConn, and Bowling Green, Illinois should be able to get off to a fast start, building confidence heading into Big Ten play. 

Additionally, people are skeptical of the incoming Illini recruiting class, which ranks dead last in the Big Ten. 2 consensus 4-star players in ATH Isaiah Williams and CB Marquez Beason, who both redshirted the 2019 season. The two were the highest Illinois football recruiting duo since 2007, and will both play major roles in 2020.

Not to mention the Illini have brought in lots of talent from the transfer market, as S TreSean Smith, LB Derrick Smith, and former Top 60 prospect in TE Luke Ford are all set to go for next year.

In sum, the Illini football team should be healthy with plenty of new talent and a schedule that proves capable of a very successful season.

Make sure to read Part 2, all about the roster outlook!

Photo:  Gabe Salgado/Athlon Sports