Can't Wait For Saturday | If it quacks like a Duck, it must be a really good football team

Jun. 9—***

The Illinois football opener is 81 days away when Bret Bielema's team lines up against Eastern Illinois.

The team has 12 guaranteed games and can add a 13th by qualifying for a bowl. Think really big and the number jumps by either reaching the Big Ten title game or earning a spot in the College Football Playoffs.

By my count, Illinois can play as many as 17 games.

No reason to get ahead of myself. Let's look at the games we know will happen for certain.

Here is the CWFS take on Illinois' schedule, counting the games down on the excite-o-meter. As always, feel free to disagree:

In 2021, the Ducks seemed to be in a happy place wth Mario Cristobal as head coach. He led Oregon to a pair of Pac-12 titles and a Rose Bowl win against Wisconsin. Cristobal could have been a Duck for life.

But his alma mater, Miami called and he decided to return home. Some thought it meant potential disaster for Oregon. Some were very, very wrong.

The school found a plug-and-play coach, Dan Lanning, on the staff at Georgia. And has been winning ever since.

Lanning's two seasons ended with 10-3 and 12-2 records. And a pair of bowl victories.

He is just getting started. Despite losing a Heisman Trophy finalist at quarterback, the Ducks are considered a strong bet to make the 12-team College Football Playoffs. And compete for the Big Ten and national titles.

Mario who?

Dillon Gabriel takes over for Bo Nix at quarterback and the Ducks added receiver Evan Stewart from Texas A&M.

The defense, which is Lanning's forte, brought in transfer help at cornerback and tackle.

The Big Ten didn't take it easy on the new team schedule-wise, giving the Ducks games against Ohio State and Michigan.

Oregon alums include quarterbacks Dan Fouts, Norm Van Brocklin and Justin Herbert, receiver Ahmad Rashad and defensive back Mel Renfro.