The Illini are coming off a 5-7 (4-5) season in Bret Bielema’s first season as Illinois’ head coach. The Illini knocked off two ranked Big Ten foes on the road last season, including a wild 20-18 nine-OT win at Penn State.
Illinois, who will open the season as a big favorite – a 10-point favorite at the online sportsbook – against Wyoming, brought in Tommy Devito as a graduate transfer from Syracuse, hoping he could return to form when he threw for 3,478 yards and started 15 games for the Orange. The Illini offense will lean on the two-headed monster at running back in Chase Brown and Josh McCray.
The defense was ranked 29th in scoring in 2021 but will have to replace much of their production from last season.
Here is a look at Illinois’ 2022 schedule with dates, times, opponents, and analysis:
WEEK 0 – VS. WYOMING COWBOYS
Date: August 27
Time: 4:00 p.m. ET
The Illini will once again play a Week 0 game. Last year they beat Nebraska at home to get the Bielema Era off on the right foot.
Saturday was poppin' in Champaign 🔥
✔️ First win of the College Football szn.
✔️ First win for @BretBielema at Illinois.
✔️ @IlliniFootball has scored at least 30 points against Nebraska for 4 straight years.
✔️ First consecutive wins vs. Nebraska since 1923-24. pic.twitter.com/dNI9039IhZ
— Illinois on BTN (@IllinoisOnBTN) August 29, 2021
Wyoming is projected to finish fifth in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West. The Cowboys have knocked off Power Five teams in the past, but maybe not this time.
WEEK 1 – AT INDIANA HOOSIERS
Date: September 2
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
The Illini travel to Bloomington for the first time since 2013. Since 2012, Illinois has lost all three matchups against Indiana. With a game under their belt, it could be an advantage for the Illini. However, Indiana will have seen Illinois play while nobody has seen the Hoosiers since last November. Conference openers can be tricky, especially on the road under the lights.
WEEK 2 – VS. VIRGINIA CAVALIERS
Date: September 10
Time: 4:00 p.m. ET
Virginia gave the Illini a dose of reality in 2021 with a 42-14 win in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers will bring another strong squad to Champaign. Can Illinois stop Brennan Armstrong and the UVA offense?
WEEK 3 – BYE
WEEK 4 – VS. CHATTANOOGA MOCS
Date: September 22
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Another weeknight game for the Illini, but this one comes against FCS foe Chattanooga. Illinois has not lost to an FCS school this century and boasts a 161-35-11 record against Non-FBS teams.
WEEK 5 – AT WISCONSIN BADGERS
Date: October 1
Any trip to Madison is tough, but this may not be the best Badgers squad in 2022. Illinois has lost 11-of-the-last-12 to Wisconsin and eight straight on the road. Last year Wisky blanked Illinois 24-0. This may not be the happiest of homecomings for the former Badger head coach Bret Bielema.
WEEK 6 – VS. IOWA HAWKEYES
Date: October 8
Illinois has knocked off Iowa once since 2003, and the games haven’t been particularly close. Last season the Illini suffered a 33-23 defeat in Iowa City. This is the middle game of a three-game cluster that Illinois will face a big, physical offense and powerful defense.
WEEK 7 – VS. MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS
Date: October 15
Time: Noon ET
Illinois went into Minnesota and beat the Gophers 14-6 in a game that wasn’t that close. They have split the last four in the series. Bielema has Minnesota’s number dating back to his days with the Badgers.
WEEK 8 – BYE
WEEK 9 – AT NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS
Date: October 29
Illinois has won two straight in the series, and one must think the Illini believe they can win here.
It’s hard to tell where the Huskers may be, but this could be the difference between who goes to a bowl game and who is home for the holidays. It could also be the difference is Scott Frost, the headliner of the college football hot seat, returns in 2023.
WEEK 10 – VS. MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
Date: November 5
Illinois has won the last two in the series after dropping 12 of the previous 13. It’s the first meeting between the schools since 2019. Both coaches have changed, and the programs are in different places. Can the Illini keep their streak alive at home?
WEEK 11 – VS. PURDUE BOILERMAKERS
Date: November 12
The battle for the Purdue Cannon has been close for its entirety. Lately, however, Illinois has won just one of the last six. Last season Purdue knocked off the Illini at Ross-Ade Stadium 13-9. A game that pits a good offense against what should be a decent defense will be a battle of strengths.
WEEK 12 – AT MICHIGAN WOLVERINES
Date: November 19
Illinois has lost all but two meetings this century with Michigan. Their last trip to Ann Arbor was in 2016, a 41-8 loss. Michigan could be fighting for a Big Ten East title, while the Illini could be trying to secure a bowl berth. History is unkind to Illinois in this series.
WEEK 13 – AT NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS
Date: November 26
The Illini reclaimed the Land of Lincoln trophy for the first time since 2014. The Wildcats have dominated the series since 2003, but Illinois has a chance to change the tides again this season. Both teams could need this win to go bowling, depending on where each stands on rivalry weekend.
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