Tim Beckman took over the Illinois football program last year after several Ron Zook-led teams underachieved. Zook wasn't a bad recruiter and several Illini players have made it to the NFL in recent years. But, having not won a Big Ten title since 2001 and a national title since 1951, Illinois needed a change in direction; especially after several teams that were hyped during the offseason failed to live up to expectations. They may have found the turnaround in Beckman, who elevated a Toledo Rocket program in three years before moving on to Champaign.
Toledo went 5-7 in his first year before going 8-5 and 8-4 in his last two seasons at the helm, both which led the Rockets to bowl games. I believe Beckman can turnaround the Illinois program in much the same way, but he may already be on a short leash after last year's 0-8 showing in conference play. Illinois will have to improve on that, and their 2-10 overall record from 2012 if Beckman wants to stick around for a third season.
Illinois should improve on their 2012 mark, but will once again find success in the conference to be difficult. Any success they do have will most likely depend on the arm of senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who has put together a solid career. He is very athletic, and should be the leader of an above average offense for the Illini; however their defense has some holes and with only ten seniors on the roster it could be another year before we see marked improvement from Beckman's bunch.
2013 Prediction 4-8, 2-6 Big Ten (no bowl game)
#12/12 Big Ten, #6/6 Leaders Division
Southern Illinois Salukis - W
Cincinnati Bearcats - L
Washington Huskies - L
Miami (OH) Redhawks - W
@ Nebraska Cornhuskers - L
Wisconsin Badgers - L
Michigan State Spartans - L
@ Penn State Nittany Lions - W
@ Indiana Hoosiers - L
Ohio State Buckeyes - L
@ Purdue Boilermakers - W
Northwestern Wildcats - L
*Highlights* I believe Illinois will roll into State College and steal a win from Penn State and they will take back the Purdue Cannon in one of the Big Ten's longest standing rivalries.
*Lowlights* Illinois is still a year or two away at least from competing for a conference title, and will lose rivalry games against intrastate rival Northwestern (Land of Lincoln Trophy) and Ohio State (The Illibuck).