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Athlon Predicts Illinois Will Be The Worst Power 5 Team In College Football

The preseason rankings have the Illini ranked below several non-Power 5 schools.

A Big Ten team is going to be the worst Power 5 team in the country.

That's what Athlon Sports is predicting, anyway.

The college football magazine released its preseason rankings and it has Illinois ranked as the worst Power 5 team.

The Fighting Illini are actually ranked below several non-Power 5 teams, too.

Illinois comes it at No. 92 overall in the rankings (there are 130 teams). The Fighting Illini are ranked right behind Rutgers.

Here's what they said about Love Smith's team.

Lovie Smith’s second season in Champaign is likely to look a lot like 2016. After winning just three games (and one Big Ten contest) last fall, the Fighting Illini have personnel concerns with a depth chart that returns only eight starters. On offense, uncertainty surrounds the quarterback spot. Junior Chayce Crouch is the favorite to start after completing 18 of 32 passes for 249 yards and one score last fall, but this competition could receive a late addition if junior college transfer Dwayne Lawson arrives on campus before the season. The strength of the offense is at the skill positions with running backs Kendrick Foster and Reggie Corbin, and the receiving corps features two potential All-Big Ten candidates in Malik Turner (48 catches) and Mike Dudek (returning after missing the last two years because of a knee injury). With three starters back, the offensive line is also in a good spot after giving up just 20 sacks in 2016. The defense has a ways to go after giving up 31.9 points per game and finishing 12th in the conference against the run. Each level was hit hard by departures, and Smith dipped into the junior college ranks for immediate help with the addition of linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips. Linebacker Hardy Nickerson, linemen Dawuane Smoot, Gimel President and Chunky Clements won’t be easy to replace. If Smith is able to get consistent quarterback play from Crouch, Jeff George Jr. or Lawson, Illinois will have a chance to exceed last year’s three wins. However, too many question marks exist to escape the bottom of the Big Ten West Division.

ESPN's Football Power Index predictions has Illinois going 3.7-8.3.

The Fighting Illini open the season on Sept. 2 against Ball State.