This was supposed to be the year for Illinois and Lovie Smith. Maybe they weren’t a legitimate B1G West contender, but with the talent on the roster and the schedule, especially on the front end, it looked like the Illini could make a trip to the postseason.

As each week passes, that bubble gets smaller and smaller. It’s almost on the verge of popping.

Illinois dropped a 40-17 contest on Saturday to Minnesota. It was a dreadful performance coming out of the bye week. The Illini needed to show up in Minneapolis, but instead couldn’t muster an offensive score. And defensive, the Illinois was gashed on the ground, allowing over 300 yards to Minnesota running backs.

Following the team’s third straight loss, Smith seemed pretty dumbfounded by the team’s performance. Isaac Trotter of Illini Inquirer captured a few quotes from the head coach, and they aren’t exactly promising.

Before the season started, Smith said he expected his team to surprise some people. After a 2-0 start to the season, it looked like the Illini might be able to challenge for a postseason bid. Now, things look pretty bleak.

It’s not a good sign that, at 2-3, Smith is still searching for answers. If things don’t get turned around in a hurry, Illinois AD Josh Whitman might be searching for answers himself.