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Way-too-early 2015 Big Ten football power rankings

9. Illinois Fighting Illini

WesLuntTim Beckman likely saved his job this past season with a win over rival Northwestern on the final day of the season. However, going 6-6 again won’t cut it this time around and there’s at least some hope that Illinois is on the rise after the 2014 season.

I didn’t say a lot of hope either, just to be clear. Where the hope comes from is in the arm of quarterback Wes Lunt and the feet and hands of soon-to-be sophomore wide receiver Mike Dudek. Illinois has a killer pass game coming back and that’s a good thing, because Beckman’s bunch is going to need to win track meets once again.

Defensively we’ve heard the promise of improvement for three years now and 2015 may be the last time for it to actually happen on the field. There are some good parts to work with in defensive end Jihad Ward and linebacker Mason Monheim.

The Illini also have a pair of talented and improving cornerbacks in V’Angelo Bentley and Eaton Spence. However, the time for improvement has gone and the time for production is here.

Heading in to 2015, the Illini will either put it all together and be a surprise winning team or fall by the wayside once again. Don’t be surprised to see this team win another game or two few saw coming (looking at you Minnesota this year).

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Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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