Illinois 2015-2016 Football Preview

In the Land of Lincoln, three college football teams dot the landscape, one of them in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and the other two in the Big Ten. For good measure, professional football is represented by the iconic Chicago Bears, who have been around in one form or another since the start of the National Football League in 1920.

Northern Illinois Huskies 2015 Football Season Preview

Three years ago, the Huskies vaulted into prominence by playing in the 2013 Orange Bowl after running off a perfect 12-0 mark. The Cinderella story died that night in a 31-10 loss. In the succeeding two years, they've won their MAC division two more times to give them six in a row in that category, and have also won four MAC titles during that six-year stretch.

The 2015 football season has one extremely difficult roadblock during the non-conference schedule with a trip to defending national champion Ohio State, and the team will have to rely more on their passing game that will be led by Drew Hare, who is careful with his throws. Tommylee Lewis will be his main target after missing most of last year, while the team's running game will be a work in progress throughout the year, especially with questions about the line. The Huskies' defense has eight returning starters, with the secondary the strong point. Still, this may be the year the string of division titles ends, with Toledo breathing down their neck.

Northwestern Wildcats 2015 Football Season Preview

A slump the past few years has kept the Wildcats out of the bowl picture, and problems at quarterback might keep them from going bowling again during the 2015 college football season. One of the key performers on offense will be running back Justin Jackson, but the need for a big-play performer in the receiving corps is what's really needed. That project is aided by the return of Christian Jones, who led the team in receptions in 2012 and 2013, but underwent ACL surgery last year.

At quarterback, either Clayton Thorson or Matt Alviti will end up being the starter during training camp. While their mobility is nice, it may be needed due to a number of question regarding who will be doing the blocking up front. The Northwestern defense appears to be nothing special, but their attitude may change if the development of players like Anthony Walker at linebacker and Godwin Igwebuike are able to boost their overall game. The talent is there on defense, but the Wildcats woes are beginning to bring back bad memories of when the school was ridiculed when it came to football. Betting on Northwestern Wildcats football this season will likely be a loser in the long run.

Illinois Fighting Illini 2015 Football Season Preview

Even though Tim Beckman has improved the Fighting Illini's record in each of his three years, he had to deal with his alleged treatment of players during the offseason. Whether or not that affects recruiting in the years ahead remains to be seen. One of the huge factors for the 2015 season is how healthy quarterback Wes Lunt will be during the campaign. He started out helping Illinois win three of four in 2014, but after getting injured, the team collapsed and finished 6-7 on the year.

Injuries have already taken away his best receiving option, since Mike Dudek tore his ACL during spring ball. Look for the duo of Geronimo Allison and Malik Turner to try and pick up the slack. Another outlet to throw to is running back Josh Ferguson, who grabbed 50 passes and led the weak rushing team with 735 yards. However, he may be targeted by defenses, given the dearth of other options.

Health on the offensive line is imperative, while weakness on the defensive line could be costly. In the latter case, depth is also a cause for concern. Still, Mason Monheim will be the focal point of the defense at linebacker, and join other talented performers there and in the secondary, but reaching that six-win level might not be in the cards. Check out our page on betting on Fighting Illini football this year for a more in depth review.

Chicago Bears 2015 Football Season Preview

After the Marc Trestman experiment imploded, John Fox was brought in as head coach of the Bears after his own tenure in Denver underwent a meltdown. Team management was hoping Trestman would find a way to develop the mercurial Jay Cutler at quarterback, but Cutler's reputation is becoming that of a coach-killer. The problem for Chicago is that only Jimmy Clausen is a plausible option behind him.

Matt Forte brings consistency at running back, but he's only got a few years left, and his fellow backs have yet to establish themselves. Meanwhile the line has talent, but not much consistency. Alshon Jeffery and first round pick Kevin White highlight the receiving unit, while Martellus Bennett's talent at tight end might supercede by his contract squabbles. A weak defensive line and secondary, coupled with a shaky group at linebacker don't bode well for the Bears, who won't be expected to compete for a post-season berth. Betting on the Chicago bears in 2015 will likely be a losing proposition. Since there is only one professional football team in the state, your options are limited being an Illinois NFL betting fan.

Big Plays Make The Difference In Dallas Bowl

While neither team was able to make much of an impact during the regular college football season, both the Illinois Fighting Illini (6-7) and the La. Tech Bulldogs (9-5) were able to put on a respectable show for 31,297 football fans at the 2014 Heat of Dallas Bowl held at the Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas, Texas on December 26, 2014. The loss was disappointing for those fans who ended up betting on the Fighting Illini football team, who played a brave but ineffective game. Illinois college football may not have earned a new feather in their cap during this game, but the Fighting Illini did deliver a valiant effort.

Despite the fact the Illini out-gained the Bulldogs 451 yards to 361 yards, it was the Bulldogs that dominated the scoreboard 35-18 on the strength of big plays on both side of the ball. For Bulldogs' Sr DE Houston Bates, the game was particularly satisfying as he spent much of the day in the Illini backfield, accounting for 4 1/2 sacks against a squad he played for from 2011-2013 before transferring after graduation with one-year of remaining eligibility. For his efforts, Bates was named the game's "Most Valuable Player".

For the Illini, the loss had to be disappointing, leaving the team with a losing record on the season. The fact is the offense did its job, but missed field goals and untimely penalties plagued efforts throughout the game. Illini QB Reilly O'Toole was the best offensive player on either team, finishing with 24-39 passing for 295 yards and one TD. La. Tech struck first at 8:04 in the first quarter when RB Jarred Craft ran around the right-side for a 16-yard TD run making the score 7-0. The Illini struck back after a long drive, settling on a 27-yard field-goal by K Taylor Zalewski.

After the ensuing kickoff, the Bulldogs registered the first big play of the game when QB Cody Sokol caught the Illini defense sleeping and hit RB Kenneth Dixon down the right side of the field for an 80-yard touchdown pass. After another sustained drive for the Illini, Zalewski missed a field 42-yard goal attempt to start the second quarter.

The Illini would get the ball back after a defensive stop and proceeded to finally put the ball in the end-zone with a 25-yard touchdown pass in the middle of the field from O'Toole to WR Jon Davis. With the score sitting at 14-10 in favor of the Bulldogs, Illinois got the ball back with a chance to take the lead. Unfortunately, Sokol made his only mistake of the game. It resulted in a 69-yard interception return for a touchdown by LB Xavier Woods.

Both teams failed to move the ball again until midway through the third quarter when the Illini sustained a drive that was capped off by a 3-yard TD run from Donovonn Young. A failed 2-point conversion left the score at 21-15 with the Bulldogs on top heading into the final quarter. After an Illinois 43-yard field goal by K David Reisner, the lead was cut to 21-18 before the Bulldogs closed out the scoring with two rushing touchdowns. The last score was a 28-yard scamper to the left-side by RB Blake Matin, leaving the final score at 35-18 and helping the Bulldogs close out a successful season.