The current group of Illinois seniors has seen it all, including a dramatic run to bowl eligibility this season.

There were not always a lot of highlights over the first few years for this senior class. The Illini won a total of nine games from 2016-18 before winning six this year. Illinois will also get a chance to grab win No. 7 this week before heading to a bowl game.

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During his Monday press conference, Illinois offensive coordinator Rod Smith discussed what this group of seniors means. He admitted this class will always hold a special place in his heart. And after a lackluster showing against Iowa over the weekend, he is vowing to be better in the season-ending rivalry against Northwestern.

Isaac Trotter with the Illini Inquirer shared Smith’s comments:

“I’m the new guy right? I just think the bond with those guys. I have a special place in my heart for them. I know the tribulations that those guys when through. Guys like Dre Brown, Reggie Corbin, those guys, some of the stuff they went through, it’s really tough…I vowed to them that we’re going to play better this week, I’m going to coach better this week, our coaching staff will pour everything that we have. For any reason at all but for those seniors, because they deserved everybody’s last bit of effort for this game. Super proud of those guys. They deserve everything. But we have to go out and earn it.”

Hopefully, the Illini do grab the seventh win heading into bowl season. Saturday’s kickoff against Northwestern is set for 12 pm EST on FS1.