SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 31: Nathan Scheelhaase #2 of the Illinois Fighting Illini smiles after they beat the UCLA Bruins in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park on December 31, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
The Illinois Fighting Illini and Western Michigan Broncos open their seasons on Saturday in Champaign.
The Tim Beckman era begins in Champaign on Saturday at 11 a.m., when the Illinois Fighting Illini take the field against the Western Michigan Broncos. The Illini, of course, narrowly escaped in last year's meeting with the Broncos, winning 23-to-20 at home.
The Broncos went 7-and-5 last year and return 15 starters from last year's team -- seven on offense and eight on defense. The Illini will return what figures to be one of the best defenses in the Big Ten and senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who will take the reigns of a revamped offense. The team will have to replace leading receiver A.J. Jenkins, and Saturday's game will be as good a proving ground as any for the fledgling cast of pass catchers.
Game time, TV channel: 11 a.m. CT, ESPNU
Point spread: Illinois favored by 10 points
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