This was a year Illinois fans have been excited about. With so much experience suiting up for the Illini in 2020, this was expected to be Lovie Smith’s best team since taking over in 2016.

After reaching a bowl game last fall, Illinois returns starting quarterback Brandon Peters and star receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe. Though they lose key players at the running back position, the offensive line play should be better than it was a year ago. Defensively, if the Illini can continue to create turnovers, they’ll be in good shape in the B1G West.

Despite the returning talent, a bowl appearance and upset wins over Wisconsin and Michigan State last season, ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) isn’t a huge believer in Smith and the Illini. They’re favored in just two of seven games in which projections are provided.

The season finale against Northwestern does not have a prediction at this time.

Can Illinois be a contender in the B1G West? Or, at the very least, can they end the year with a winning record for the first time under Smith? Here’s how ESPN’s FPI is predicting the season to go in Champaign:

  • Oct. 24: at Wisconsin — 6.1% chance of victory
  • Oct. 31: vs. Purdue — 52.1% chance of victory
  • Nov. 7: vs. Minnesota — 32.5% chance of victory
  • Nov. 14: at Rutgers — 58.4% chance of victory
  • Nov. 21: at Nebraska — 33.6% chance of victory
  • Nov. 28: vs. Ohio State — 3.7% chance of victory
  • Dec. 5: vs. Iowa — 29.6% chance of victory
  • Dec. 12: at Northwestern — N/A