Yeah, it was nice to roll in last week's opener against FCS-level Murray State, but things actually get real this time under the lights ... and having revenge on their mind wouldn't exactly be the worst thing for the Illini. They got whacked, almost Sopranos style, last fall at picturesque Kenan Stadium after entering the Tar Heels' home at 2-0. Seemed to be a lot of mismanagement or misjudgment on the part of then-head coach Bill Cubit as a six-point game midway through the second quarter somehow turned into a 48-14 runaway, so you'd figure the team would be in better hands now under Lovie Smith. Of course, it's not like UNC is a pushover this season, having entered this season ranked 22nd before losing to Georgia 33-24 in its opener.
2. Gotta be solid all around
The Illini defense, and special teams, will be tested by UNC's multi-dimensional attack headlined by receiver-return man Ryan Switzer. The guy burned the Orange & Blue catching passes and returning punts last year, so his No. 3 should be Priority 1 for two of the Illinois units. Oh yeah, that T.J. Logan kid returning kickoffs ain't too shabby, either, having taken one 95 yards to the house against Georgia just last week. Beyond that, RB Elijah Wood can be a dominant runner and the Heels ain't afraid to throw, either, as evidenced by 40 passing attempts against the Bulldogs. Put it this way, the Illini held Murray State to just 165 yards laast week. If they gave up double that this week, it'd be a great effort ... and a needed one.
3. Push comes to shove, Lunt still key
Kinda hard to find any flaws in the Illini attack last week, aside from featured RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn (17 carries, 55 yards) being held in check. You'd like to see the sophomore's output increase, even against stiffer competition – unless Kendrick Foster, he of the two 56-yard scoring jaunts in the opener, is something far beyond expectations and won't need any help. Still seems, though, that the key is getting QB Wes Lunt rolling. The senior has special arm talent, including an incredibly soft touch on every pass, and a bevy of quality receivers at his disposal. Last week's efficient outing was nice. A little more aerial fireworks could provide an early statement in Smith's tenure.
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org