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Monday, July 20, 2009
Preseason predictions: Illinois

By staff

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Three predictions for each Big Ten team in 2009, starting with Illinois.

1. Arrelious Benn will double his career touchdown receptions total and then bolt for the NFL -- Benn's lack of touchdown receptions mystifies even him, but the odd trend will change this season. Illinois boasts the Big Ten's best receiving corps, and opponents will be unable to double-team Benn as much as they'd like. Jarred Fayson, Jeff Cumberland and others will open up more opportunities for Benn in the red zone. He'll catch 10-12 touchdown passes and then surprise no one by entering the NFL draft.

2. The Illini will finally beat Missouri -- After dropping four straight in the series, Illinois breaks through this fall behind a superior offense. Missouri's offense has lost key pieces like Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman, while Illinois returns all of the key pieces around quarterback Juice Williams. Not surprisingly, the game will feature plenty of points, but the Illini prevail in the Edward Jones Dome.

3. Martez masters the middle, but the defense will take time to jell -- Martez Wilson's move to middle linebacker should be a catalyst to get consistent production out of the supremely talented junior. After a rough 2008 season both on and off the field, Wilson will show increased maturity and take a leadership role on defense. But without Brit Miller, Vontae Davis, Derek Walker, Will Davis and others, the unit will struggle early on, much like it did last season.