I love Alexander's Steakhouse in Champaign. It's reasonably priced, casual enough to go to on a whim and a place that allows you to cook your own steak (as well as Texas Toast and potatoes) on large communal grills. It's fun, but also puts the blame squarely on you the consumer if your steak is overdone.
The football team's steaks are the members of a senior-heavy roster and the cooks are a collection of successful and renowned coaches with an unusually small timeframe in which to work. With a new offensive scheme and a new defensive scheme coming in, 2016's success will be all down to how well Lovie Smith's staff can adapt their philosophy to the talent available. With Mike Dudek out once more, what do you think is the best this team can expect record-wise in 2016? What do you think will be their best game and their worst game?
C4B: It's hard to project how teams react to new coaches (many react badly, some pull amazing seasons out of nowhere). You kind of need to hope that the Illini really take to Lovie, because a quick glance at your schedule makes me worried that 5-7 might be your ceiling without some serious help/luck. That Western Michigan game will probably be one of the highlights of your season, while it's probably better if you just pretend football doesn't exist on November 12th.
MNW: Best case, I can maybe talk myself into 6-6. That would, however, require either a sweep of the non-conference or an upset of someone like Nebraska or Northwestern. And we know the latter is not happening. I can see a worst case 2-10 (1-8) rebuilding season, but I think that 4-8 (2-7) is more likely.
AlNamiasIV: Absolute best case would be 6-6, and that would require a good deal of luck and absolute top-notch coaching. Worse is 3-9 and I'd sooner see that occurring than 6-6. I think the Lovie era gets off to a rocky start, but that's often the case with good coaches. It takes time to put their system in place. 2018 will be the judgment year for Lovie.
Stew: Looking at that schedule makes me more bullish about Illinois than my compatriots. It's not overly harsh being in the West and you also get Buttgers in a crossover. UNC also loses a ton from that team. I think 8-4 is probably the ceiling, with 4-8 probably being the worst. I think IL gives Minnesota and probably Iowa competitive games. But also probably gets whooped by Michigan.
Aaron Yorke: I'm not a huge fan of Wes Lunt, which means I'm even less of a fan of Lunt without his top receiver. Getting to a bowl game is going to be very tough with five Big Ten road games on the schedule. By best game and worst game, do you mean relative to the opponent or just sheer margin of victory and defeat? Purdue is the team Illinois has a chance to beat by a touchdown or two, but I'm going to say Minnesota because the Illini have a chance to score a meaningful upset in that one. The worst game is going to be a loss to a Rutgers or Northwestern team that Illinois fans think they are better than. Overall, I say this team finishes 5-7.
andrewkraszewski: Examining the schedule, the crossovers are tough and so is the non-con. A returning senior QB is usually a good thing, but with Allison gone and Dudek hurt I couldn't name a single receiver I'd consider threatening for Lunt to throw to. Let's call it 5-7, give or take a few tossups like @Rootjars, vs Minny, and vs WMU (and calling that last one a toss up is generous- the Fightin' Flecks are going to be dangerous this year). Worst game will probably be either Michigan or Wisconsin, as those are programs that games just seem to get out of hand against for teams like Illinois. Best game will probably be the season-opener, to allow for maximum unfounded optimism before reality sets in.
Graham Filler: Illinois plays MSU, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, NW, and Michigan. 6 wins...an accomplishment. So let's see...Best Game: Playing UNC super tough at home before falling to a better squad late. This will show the world, hey, Illinois might make some noise in 2016. Worst Game: Losing 41-7 against Michigan, showing the world, hey, 2016 isn't the year after all...