I’ll be honest I don’t know how to feel. The Illini football team has won three straight and the 

The Illinois Fighting Illini football team was left for dead less than a month ago. Three wins against three Big Ten teams in a row and all of a sudden I feel better than I have in at least five years about the future of Illini football. 

Let’s start with the football team. What happened over the last three weeks? 

I have to give credit where credit is due. Lovie Smith deserves as much credit for the turnaround as anyone. Smith had every opportunity to give up on this team. 

He has had so much success in his career, and he does not have to be here if he does not want to be anymore. But he has showed up to work every day and got his team ready, and he should be praised for that. 

You can say the same for the players. They could have given up, but they didn’t, and now they are being rewarded for it. 

But even with the effort, what is happening on the field during the game that gives the Illini the edge? First thing first is the defense is just straight up balling out. They have forced turnovers and turning them into points immediately with three touchdowns in the last two games. 

When you get points from defense or special teams, your chances of winning go up astronomically. 

The turnovers have been just as big for the offense, or I should say lack of turnovers. The Illini’s turnover margin is plus-12 with 22 takeaways and only 10 turnovers on offense. 

That right there has a direct impact on wins and losses. 

Brandon Peters has given the Illini a dual-threat quarterback who has protected the ball and hit the deep ball enough. The Illini have the deep threat with Josh Imatorbhebhe, but the long touchdown plays are not just limited to the pass game. Reggie Corbin and Dre Brown are threats to take it to the house every time they touch the ball. 

Granted, I can rave all day about how great the Illini are, but again I am extremely biased. Illinois has plenty of holes, but this football team has given fans hope when hope was very low for last five or so years. 

And on the basketball floor, the team has a chance to really make Illini nation excited. The Illini had their exhibition game on Friday night against Lewis, and it did not start out well. The Illini fell behind 14-2 before turning on the jets and winning running away. 

By far the best thing that came out of the game on Friday was how good Kofi Cockburn looked. Granted, it was against an inferior opponent, but he looked so physical, and he even had a nice 10-12-foot jumper working for him. 

The Illini have two stud guards in Ayo Dosunmo and Trent Frazier to go with another post presence in fan favorite Giorgi Bezhanishvili. 

The good thing about this season is we will know right away whether this team is going to be any good or not. The Illini head to Arizona this weekend for two tough away games. The Illini will take on Grand Canyon on Friday night befor playing Arizona Sunday night. 

Those two games should give us a pretty good indication of where the team is headed going into the rest of the season. 

I am not exactly sure what to expect from this season, but I have to think the NCAA tournament is definitely a possibility. 

I would be insanely happy if the Illini can make a bowl game and the NCAA tournament in the same year. It can happen, and it’s a very deserved for everyone involved, including the fans. You can contact Ryan Birch at Rbirch@Rantoulpress.com or on Twitter @RyanBirchRP.