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Week 2 Preview: Illinois football travels to Kansas



Illinois football
Nov 26, 2022; Evanston, Illinois, USA; llinois Fighting Illini head coach Bret Bielema leads his team on the field against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois football travels to Lawrence for a Friday night game against the Kansas Jayhawks.

The Illini struggled in its home opener, needing a go-ahead field goal to defeat the Toledo Rockets 30-28 last Saturday. Kansas, on the other hand, had no issues with FCS opponent Missouri State. The Illini and the Jayhawks look to build on their success from 2022. The Jayhawks won six games and made a bowl game for the first time since 2007. They were ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2008. Illinois had its best season since 2007, when they won nine games and went to the Rose Bowl.

How Illinois football wins the game:

Illinois has to be better defensively on a down-to-down basis. They gave up too many chunk plays to the Rockets’ running game. While much of that was DeQuan Finn doing what he does, the running backs also got off a couple of runs. Toledo’s offensive line moved the line of scrimmage against Illinois. The Illini’s defensive front is supposed to be elite. However, it did not play that way against the Rockets. Jer’Zhan Newton and company have to play better than they did last weekend.

Perhaps the biggest test for the Illini defense is eye discipline. Jayhawks offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki uses a myriad of formations and motion that will test the defense.

Bielema and offensive coordinator Barry Lunney, Jr. need to let quarterback Luke Altmyer let it rip on offense. After the Miles Scott interception, Altmyer’s play catalyzed the offensive comeback in the second half. Though Bielema loves to run the football, he has to know that the Mississippi transfer is the best option on offense. Illinois pushed the football down the field, and the receivers made plays. It might be prudent to throw to set up the run.

How the Jayhawks win this game:

Kansas had one of the worst defenses in the Power Five in 2022, so they must score to win this game. Kotelnicki will use formations and motion to neutralize what should be an advantage up front for Illinois. More than that, the health of quarterback Jalon Daniels is paramount for Kansas. He did not play in the season opener but is expected to play against Illinois. We won’t know for sure until game time, and we won’t know how healthy he is until he plays — if he plays.


Depending on which sportsbook you go to, Kansas is a 3 to 3.5-point favorite in this game, which is close to a pick ’em. It’s hard to see Kansas stopping Illinois’ offense, especially if they can run the football. Daniels is a difference-maker, and not knowing his status makes this a challenging game to predict. However, Illinois makes a play on defense, and Altmyer lets loose. The Illini win one of the more entertaining games of the early season.

Score: Illinois 42, Kansas 35


Armchair Illini is a comprehensive site dedicated to covering University of Illinois Athletics owned and operated by Alex Kyi. Dante Pryor has been writing about College Football for years on Saturday Blitz and is now the Lead Football Author for Armchair Illini.