Head Coach Brett Bielema has a 13-12 record over his first two seasons at the helm. He will be starting the third different QB during his brief tenure when the Fighting Illini open their season on September 2 against the Toledo Rockets.
Illinois is +35000 at DraftKings IL to win the National Championship Game but has much better odds to win the Big Ten West (+600). Can the Fighting Illini win more than the 6.5 games on the bookmakers’ board? Find out when we share our predictions for the 2023 Illinois Fighting Illini college football team.
Key Offensive Players
- Quarterback Luke Altmyer: The sophomore transfer student from Mississippi is expected to replace former starting QB Tommy DeVito. Altmyer has thrown three TDs with three interceptions at Mississippi.
- Wide receiver Isaiah Williams: Williams is a big-play receiver who snagged five TD passes last season and 1249 receiving yards and nine TD receptions over his three seasons at Illinois.
- Running Back Reggie Love: Love is ready to be the lead back and scampered for 330 yards with a pair of TDs in a pedestrian role last season.
- Wide Receiver Pat Bryant: Bryant hauled in 34 passes for 453 yards and two TD receptions in 2022 and will have an expanded role in this year’s offensive scheme.
- Kicker Caleb Griffin: Griffin nailed 14 of 19 field goal attempts, with his longest going 52 yards at the 2022 ReliaQuest Bowl.
I still don’t know how he did this & stayed inbounds!!! 👀👀👀#Illini
— Bill Duffield (@SprgfldBill09) September 23, 2022
Key Defensive Players
- Defensive Lineman Jer’Zhan Newton: Newton led the team in sacks (5.5) and was fourth in tackles in 2022.
- Defensive Lineman Keith Randolph Jr.: Randolph was second on the team in sacks (4.5) and fifth in tackles last season.
- Linebacker Tarique Barnes: Barnes was sixth in tackles and recorded 1.5 sacks during the 2022 season.
- Defensive Back Tahveon Nicholson: Nicholson deflected six balls, picked off another, and forced a fumble in 2022.
🔸 @AthlonSports Preseason All-Americans
— Illinois Football (@IlliniFootball) May 26, 2023
The Illini’s schedule is challenging in 2023. They will face off against six teams that finished with winning records in 2022, including Penn State, Minnesota, Purdue, and Iowa. However, the Illini also have a number of winnable games on their schedule, including matchups against Toledo, Kansas, and Florida Atlantic.
Illinois Football 2023 schedule pic.twitter.com/MFvd3kfNJw
— Pond Time (@PineNutPesto) May 7, 2023
- Illinois 2023 Win Total: Over 6.5 (-120) Under (+100)
- Big Ten West Winner: +600
- Big Ten Championship Game Winner: +3500
- NCAAF National Championship Winner: +35000
Best Bets for Illinois 2023 Season
There are four Future bets you could make, but only one you should, Illinois Under 6.5 wins. Just remember that all wagers involving instate teams must be made at a retail sportsbook as betting on instate Illinois college teams on online sportsbooks in Illinois is prohibited.
Bielema has done good work at Illinois, but his offense finished ninth in the Big Ten last season, and they’ll likely struggle early this season with Altmyer and behind a new center. The left side of the offensive line might be the best in the conference, but The Fighting Illini don’t have enough offensive skill players, which will make a difference on the scoreboard.
Terrence Jamison and Aaron Henry are the new defensive coordinators, and they have seven returning starters to work with. Illinois allowed the third-fewest rushing yards per game in 2022 and could end the season with similar numbers. The secondary is young and returns just one starter. Nicholson is a good one, but they’ll need time to gel, and teams could take advantage of this early in the season.
The Fighting Illini have a tough road schedule. Maryland, Minnesota, and Iowa are all expected to end their regular seasons with better records than Illinois. That’s three losses right there. They have difficult home games against Penn State and Wisconsin that are anything but sure victories. That’s five probable losses right there, and Nebraska isn’t a gimme, either.
Finally, Illinois could get a postseason bowl invitation, but they’ll have trouble winning seven games against that schedule. The Fighting Illini doesn’t have the offensive depth or weapons to post big numbers and will have to rely on its defense to win games. That likely won’t happen enough for Illinois to exceed the 6.5 total.