There have been plenty of issues to point to at Illinois in the first half of the season. Those flaws have led to a 2-4 start for the Illini, which includes an 0-3 mark in B1G play.

But with the negative, Smith has seen some positives from his team through the first six games. One of those positives is how the Illini — for the most part — have performed in the third quarter of games this season. That was on display last weekend, when Illinois crawled back from a 28-7 deficit at halftime to close the gap to 28-25 before falling 42-25 to Michigan.

Smith says that if Illinois can start the game with that same success, the team will be celebrating a lot of wins in the second half of the year.

If there’s a way to bottle that third quarter performance and open it back up for the final six games, Illinois has a shot to get some tallies in the win column. There are still games against Purdue, Rutgers and Northwestern on the schedule, which have a combined 4-13 record through seven weeks of the football season.

The Illini would then need to steal a game from Wisconsin, Iowa or Michigan State to get that sixth win an get to bowl eligibility.

First, Illinois needs to get itself figured out, especially on the defensive side of the football. The Illini have struggled to stop anyone this season, and it’s been simple tackling and missed assignments that have been so costly.

Perhaps Smith and the Illini found something from last Saturday’s loss, though. We’ll find out this weekend, as Illinois hosts No. 6 Wisconsin.