Illini Football: 2008 Season - Roster Information - History - Future Schedules
Illini Basketball: 2008/09 Season - Scholarship Chart - Depth Chart
NCAA Football: Preseason Rankings - Bowl Tie-Ins
Other UI Sports: Volleyball - Soccer

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Big Ten Media Day Part 2:

Michigan State - Mark Dantonio

I missed the first bit... bunch of coachspeak about academics, recapping last year, integrity, blah blah.

They got the "first base" last year... (a bowl game) (huh?)

Q: How do things change with Ringer being the go-to guy?
A: *coachspeak* he says that today it has to be a 2-3 tailback system.

Q: Move from Big East to Big Ten?... how will it be with DickRod?
A: DickRod brings awareness(?), did great job at WVU, used the word "outstanding" a lot. He sees the Big Ten as a conference where anyone can rise up and play. Mentioned Illinois coming from "wherever they came from" to the top.

Q: How realistic is it to believe you can go from first base to home this year? (*shudder*)
A: *coachspeak* *one game at a time mantra* "It's not as far away as you think, it's not as close as you imagine." "our goal will be to win a big ten championship this year"

Q: Can you be this year's Illinois?
A: "they are fattening us up" "everybody has an opportunity in this conference"... mentioned they lost close games last year.

Q: I missed it :(
A: something about rebuilding, making your own mark... blah blah blah. Previous MSU coaches made their mark and left... they are looking for longevity.

Q: How will you replace Devon Thomas?
A: *name dropping* cunningham had a good year, Fred Smith might be a good incoming freshman.

Q: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois question... is Big Ten in transition... is this an anomoly before Michigan and PSU get back to the top?
A: Any team can rise up... mentioned Illinois.

"We have time for one more question... *crickets*

Tim Brewster - Minnesota

...went straight into boring coachspeak speech...

"We want to become... a better football team"... no shit.

"we felt like we recruited one of the top classes in the nation"

his voice keeps getting louder and louder... I need an advil.

...still waiting for him to get past his opening remarks... now talking about change.

I just turned the volume down 3 notches...



Ok, I'm pretty sure Tim is going to try and use the entire 15 allotted minutes to talk without answering any questions.

- talked about Adam Weber, has become a better student of the game, has put on weight.
- talked about Eric Decker (who in NCAA 09 caught 2 touchdowns and ran a kick back against me... its ok though, I beat them like 65-30)
- "If you really love football, football will love you back"

more name dropping.

now he's talking about his kicker's.... good grief.

talking about the stadium now... TCF Bank Stadium "it will be an amazing place"... Brewster says it will help with recruiting.

I just noticed... somewhere in the last 5 minutes he buttoned up his gold pin-striped jacket.

FINALLY!!! Questions!

Q: Emphasis on Defense, how will the D change
A: "I don't think its about style or scheme... its about players". "we talk about Alignment, assignment, and tackle"... (uh tim, alignment (style) and assignment (scheme) is what the question is about)

Then Brewster started name dropping and yelling even louder... christ almighty.

Q: the schedule
A: Its important we start first..." all we are looking at is August 30th against Northern Illinois, thats as far as we are looking "

Q: Do you have the personelle to better impliment the spread offense?
A: long boring ancedote about Marquis Gray... then more name dropping.

I officially hate any serious question, because coaches aren't going to actually answer them...

Q: Do you feel young coaches can change the balance of power? (from a kid from Northwestern)
A: "You're a young kid aren't you?.... DID YOU KNOW minnesota has won 6 national titles?! Minnesota is truely one of the top schools in the Big Ten... blah blah)

and we're out of time...

Penn State - Joe Paterno

thank god... hopefully less coach speak.

Joe Pa decides to skip the monologue and go straight to questions... nice move.

Q: What do you want to see from Deven or Clark? (QB)
A: I hope we can make a good decision... I'm not looking for any one thing.

Q: Thoughts on being in the Hall of Fame?
A: "You hang around long enough they have to do something with you"... "It's a great honor... to be recognized by your peers" tough to enjoy it when he's concentrating on football.

Q: question about Pryor and Ohio State
A: "I don't think thats my decision to make, I think its a dumb question to be honest with you" "I think its up to Jimmy"
* side note, JoePa couldn't find the guy asking the question in the crowd

Q: Boilerplate "joe tiller thought highly of you, please stroke his ego back" question.
A: predictable

Q: Do you feel badgered by retirement questions?
A: "I get tired of answering the same old question... you can only say "I don't know" so many times." "I want to get out when I think its appropriate," and he wants to give the next generation a really good football team.

Q: Is the passion/dedication still there?
A: "all i tell you is how I fell today... ..I feel really good, health wise I feel good, I'm excited"

Q: You get tired about retirement question (so here comes another one)... when you see Joe leave do you think about leaving?
A: "he does it his way, I do it my way"

Q: another fucking retirement question.
A: joe is about to choke a bitch.

OK, at this point someone in my office merciflly had pizza, so I got away from this crap for 20 minutes.. so...

Iowa - Kirk Ferentz
I missed it... shoot.

Now DickRod is up and talking...

Michigan - Rich Rodriguez

I walked into this one with coachspeak for his opening statements.

Q: General question about the transition from WVU
A: General boilerplate answer.

Q: Do you have any regrets about the WVU lawsuit
A: "there is a lot of things I would like to talk about, but I want to move on..."

more boring questions about the lawsuit that Mr. Rodrigues isn't going to answer...

Q: What changes have been made to the strength and conditioning program
A: another mention of BBQ at coaches house (see: Pat Fitzgerald)... basically, not really an answer to the question other than a different way to do things.

Q: ANOTHER question about Pryor (urge to kill rising)
A: "I only talk about players that play for michigan"

Q: Speed and athleticism in the Big Ten?
A: boilerplate.... stated that his offense isn't anything particularly new for the Big Ten.

LOL... question from the author...

Q: What can you do to turn results around in Michigan's favor
A: "I don't have a countdown to a particular game, other than the game that is next" he's not going to be hapy to just beat Ohio State...

Big Ten Media Day:

Live streaming video:

Here's a disjointed recap and commentary on the press conferences

Illinois - Ron Zook

Opening comments:
- proud of football team, proud of what they accomplished... yada yada
- Need to move on, to keep going.
- Excited
- Talked about the "phases" of the year.
- acknowledged that there are a lot of questions, who will replace Mendenhall, Reda, Leman?

Question: How will you lineup with running backs... will be by committee?
Answer: Dufrene will probably be starter going into practice.... but depth charts aren't important early. It will probably be by committee so far. Ford has not been in practice yet. It will be important for the staff to put them in positions where they can be successful.

Question: About Spread Offense, why the spread so popular?
Answer: "I don't have the answer to that", wanted to run an offense he hated to see as a defense coordinator. Spreading the field makes it harder to stop the run. Its a fun offense. Zook is excited about the 40 second play clock.

Question: About Juice's development.
Answer: Juice has improved over the last year. Talked about how his completion percentage should be up in the 70's. Juice has worked hard, put in the effort. Players will be better as JR's and SR's than underclassman. Juice has turned into more of a leader, he is more relaxed and confident. Said that Eddie has worked hard as well. Its good to have 2 quality QB's working so hard.

Question: About Big Ten losing in the BCS games last year. Has Big Ten taken a hit?
Answer: Its important that we (the B10) go win. there is no doubt in his mind the Big Ten is a great conference. It is important that we take care of business.

Question: Talk about Joe Tiller
Answer: Coach Tiller has a great sense of humor, was won a lot of games, has done well with purdue. He made Purdue a school that competes for recruits.

Question: Was Illinois a flash in the pan, how do they address the "one and done" philosphy.
Answer: Coming back from California, told kids they will be dissapointed when they see the tape. Said they need to take a freshman class through the system. Britt has said that his class isn't going to be the one to drop the ball.

Question: Do you like the Missouri Game?
Answer: "They aren't going to change it, so I might as well be happy about it". Its an opportunity to make sure camp is productive.

Question: Who has improved most in the off season
Answer: Hard to say. They have all progressed. Goals in the spring were to keep leadership intact and improve passing game. Zook thinks defense will be the strength of the football team, specifically the D-Line. Players are all close knit and excited for the season to start.

Question: What is different about Missouri than last year?
Answer: Last year we had to teach the guys how to win. This year the difference is the guys know they can compete.

Question: Is there one thing you have to have to run the spread, and to stop it
Answer: On defense you can't get too complicated. the spread has allowed us to do is give our players the best chance to win. We didn't run Option at Florida, we do herebecause it works for Juice.

Northwestern - Pat Fitzgerald

- He's his usual tense self.
- Talked about expectations (what?)
- Disappointing last season, though they made strides

Q: New Offensive Coordinator?
A: 8 Big Ten offenses are now spread, each one is different. Offense is about players, formation, and plays... brilliant. Able to control tempo with 40 second play clock.

Q: 8 teams run spread, spreading across the country, again another question about why it is popular.
A: Thinks its critical at QB position. Its a flexible offense. Opens up offensively. Get speed on the field. Allows staff to put best 11 players regardless of position (to an extent). difficult for defenses

Q: Who appears to be the impact newcomers.
A: Redshirt freshman, 2 on offensive line. Charles Brown had a good offseason. Vincent Brown at DE, Ben Johnson at LB. Michael Bolden and Mavin at Corner and Special Teams. Optimistic about the new players.

Q: What kind of impact/confidense does Sutton bring?
A: chance for a great bookend to his career, if he can stay healthy. They hope to get the running game back on track. (and overrated)

Q: At what point are you a month before the season.
A: *coachspeak*, needed to adjust with all the new coaches. leadership council (WTF?) had a BBQ at Fitz' house on Sunday... hopefully they will be ready for Syracuse.

Q: Finishing games was a problem last year... how do you address that?
A: Finishing is a way of life.... *coachspeak*

Q: What will you change from last year, what did you learn
A: *coachspeak*... talks about how he thinks they recruited well the last two seasons.

Q: Early on you lost to Duke and Sutton got injured... do you talk to the team about it or move past it.
A: We got what we deserved against Duke. When we finally started to play NORTHWESTERN FOOTBALL we ran out of time. Angrily shouted about how in 1993 six wins would have been a purple party in evanston. They shouldn't be happy with 6 wins anymore.

Q: same reporter trying to get the coaches to stroke Joe Tiller off.
A: predictable.

Q: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois 1,2,3... what do you think?
A: Ohio State is clearly #1... after that we had 10 bowl eligible teams last year. Big Ten continues to have great success.

Q: Any fundamental change with Jim Phillips as the new AD?
A: he doesn't sleep. use of the word change a few times. NORTHWESTERN FOOTBALL. More coachspeak.

I don't condone the use of or personally use any illegal drugs, but this man needs a joint. I zoned out quite a bit with the coachspeak.

Wisconsin - Bret Bielima

My video player is going straight up crazy, and he sounds like a chipmunk. Which may be accurate.

Like Bo Ryan, he is slowly taking on the physical appearance of a badger... a very tan badger.

I missed the first question, something about injuries, and how well players are recovering.

Q: Back to back night games at Camp Randall
A: Power that be determine schedule... we are very excited, we have a great record with night games. Festive environment (I seem to recall last year he bitched about having a night game against iowa... he must have seen the light)

Q: Michigan not in the top 3?
A: Probably a misprint. Preseason predictions are based on numbers. He said he thought last year Illinois would be a suprise team, he likes the postseason accolades better.

Q: About Michigan changing its look. how do you prepare for Rich.
A: They have non-conference games first they can scout. "Its good to be at a michigan press conference"

Q: QB situation?
A: Allen has game experience, played for KSU. Name dropped the rest of their roster. Competition brings the best... 10 days before Akron they will have a 2-deep.

Q: Whats it like to not to run the spread.
A: We're unique! for us we are the team other teams have to make changes to prepare. Called his linemen big and ugly. We have to adjust defensively because we go against our own offense in practice. Spread creates spacing, one on one matchups. Every spread is different, makes it more difficult.

Q: Akron, Fresno St., Marshall, Cal Poly are the non-con... isn't that below your standards?
A: Snappy remark. When we signed marshall they were a good team... tried to polish up Akron. Talked about how tough Fresno State is (which is a true statement, its going to be a tough game for Wisconsin). Got out of Virginia Tech to create a bye week before michigan, then Cal Poly was all they could find.

Q: Ohio has had a run of dominance... they lost big in BCS title games. Does that reflect on the conference?
A: No one can argue with their history and tradition. As a conference, we need to win our games. Capital One Bowl is a huge bowl, largest non BCS bowl. Michigan won its last year. As a whole the Big Ten is strong.

Q: You talked up the Illini last year... is there anyone this year?
A: *coach speak* *coaches are high quality*... mentions Michigan State as a challenging game. They don't play Purdue, Northwestern. Indiana is waiting to jump up.

Q & A: Prempts the Joe Tiller Question by answering it. Dodges the slob fest by saying joe isn't wearing a tie and he beat him they one time they played.

Q: About your QB's.
A: Allen has to hit receivers. He wants to see how the rest react to being hit, how they handle the pressure.

Q: Feelings about 40 second clock?
A: Great idea. Its going to make things more consistant. Every official moves at a different pace. Eliminate issues with clock. He doesn't like the clock starting on out of bounds. He doesn't like changing the game.

Purdue - Joe Tiller

Last year he coached is the most unusual spring he has had. 15 starters or significant players missed most of practice. Said summer and camp will be vital.

Good to have a 3.5 year starter. Kicker had good game last year

Q: What is your legacy?
A: "People are still curious about me" "The fact we were able to bring Purdue from the depths to being more competitive".

Q: how does the succession plan make you adjust how you coach
A: NOT AT ALL! Danny Hope has been on the staff before, he thinks they might have suffered when they left. Long rant... says it will go "extremely well"

Q: Share your thoughts on your most endearing relationship with staff... and other coaches.
A: "uhm... I've met few coaches I haven't liked. Seems to gravitate to coach Paterno... their wives are close. " "If you can't get along well with Joe Tiller (yes, he refered to himself in the third person), there is something wrong with you, not Joe Tiller". If you don't genu-wine-ly like your staff there can be issues.

Q: Do you take pride/amusement schools have adopted your offensive style?
A: No, it was going to happen sooner or later, players like to play it. Spread offense is a reflection of society (huh?), it fits into an instant gratification society. They did their part to make America better? (WHAT THE FUCK!?)

Q: Is there a possiblity Paterno won't be back
A: yea, he'll have to quit someday... so there is a possibility, but he should stick around. He has been a real leader and visionary. college football will miss him when the time comes. Compares him to the "Everready Bunny... keeps on ticking"

Q: Boring retread question on the Big Ten and perception.
A: Something about bloggers, Tiller doesn't have an email address, my video is choppy again. He's been in Wyoming for 3 weeks... blah blah blah. teams beating each other up happens in "every damn league"

Q: I missed the name, something about a recruit being on campus...
A: He will be fine. (no clue what its about)

Ohio State - Jim Tressel
Tressel is in a suit and tie...

opens with a bunch of coachspeak.

Q: you are 6-1 against Michigan, predecessor was 2-10-1, why?
A: good players... (rant from there, good thing Zook was first, coach speak is starting to wear on me)

Q: Carson Palmer's comments.
A: He's very proud of where he played... I'm sure he's excited about us getting to play his alma mater.

Q: How soon will Pryor be in your offense?
A: August 4th, first day of practice. Needs to pick up the signs and system. From day 1 he will be someone you take notice of.

Q: Difference in preseason prep coming off the 2 national title games?
A: Make sure you continue to challenge guys. Not let them think its the same. They will challenge them physically and intellectually (I about fell out of my chair at this)

Q: USC game?
A: We always wanted to have a national home and home series in every 2 year schedule (Texas, USC series), its good for recruiting. its a huge challenge.

Q: No michigan, penn state in the top 3, how accurate is the poll?
A: It hasn't been in the past, which is frightening.... *coachspeak*

Q: Is there any pressure being picked #1?
A: *coachspeak* doesn't know that it adds anything.

I've noticed he has never said "the" ohio state university... someone in Public Affairs might want to send him a memo.

Q: Boeckmann
A: no price tag on experience. Easier for Boeckmann to step up and take charge this year.

Q: JoePa question again... can you imagine Penn State without Joe?
A: boring question, I've zoned out.

Q: can you pickout a darkhorse in the Big Ten?
A: *artful dodge* *coachspeak* *head falls into keyboardddddddddddddddddddddddddd*

Q: has big ten perception been pinned to 4 BCS games?
A: From our standpoint its fair, we haven't been successful... I don't think it should reflect on the conference. The only thing that matters is the game.

Q: Would losing the NC game again have a positive outlook... would it make for a dissapointing season?
A: IF it were to happen again it means we were Big Ten champions, so I couldn't be dissapointed with that. Would be dissapointed if we didn't play to our ability.

Indiana - Bill Lynch
First bowl experience in a number of years.
Confidence on campus.

Nobody is gonna watch the shitty basketball team so maybe we will sell tickets (ok, he didn't say that)

40 second rule is an opportunity to control Tempo (IU will be no-huddle this year)

Q: Now that Kellen is back, what is his ceiling
A: outstanding player, he can play within the framework of the offense (their framework is him running around for his life?). They have worked hard to develop the offensive line... and to be good defensively. Need to not be reliant on one guy like Kellen.

Q: Who are the players who should step up in the secondary
A: The answer consists of a bunch of name dropping.

Q: running game?
A: We'll continue to play a number of guys with Thigpen as the starter. He really thinks O-Line will be better (sounds like a cry for help)

Q: how quickly do you think Kellen will be back to speed. What do you think the bowl experience taught the team?
A: Kellen missing spring gives others the chance to step up... it will be competitive amongst QB's. With respect to the bowl game: gave them confidence that they can be a bowl team. The game proved they still need to be better.

Q: is there a different feel on campus because of last year.
A: yes. *coachspeak* talked about how the north end zone structure will improve their facilities.

Q: talk about the "play 13" mantra
A: Play 13 was Hoeppner. It became big because Hep could only communicate with emails near the end and signed emails with it. It became the cry for the team. It will always be there. Now we want to play AND win the 13th game.

Q: Any talk of playing in Lucas Oil Stadium
A: no, we want as many games in Bloomington as possible (no shit, look at their pathetic schedule). "We gotta defend the rock!" "The buckeyes don't lose in Columbus"... hehe. We are fortunate to have 8 home games. Down the road maybe (in Indy)

Q: With new AD, are you confident football will get its support?
A: I'm not going to bother listening to this answer, there is only one possible answer he can give. There was a vague reference to the basketball melt-down.

Q: Can you give us a personelle update, will anyone be out?
A: "minor repair" surgery is best done before spring because you don't want to risk them not being ready in early august. Everyone is back and healthy.

and now a 30 minute intermission.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Memorial Stadium (and Champaign) photos.

Regularly scheduled countdown post will come tomorrow...

until then, pictures of the stadium (and a few of campus) I took yesterday.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Newly renovated IMPE (or ARC, i think is what they call it now) about to open.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
again with the (FINALLY!) renovated Rec Center at the north end of Memorial Stadium

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Memorial Stadium from 1st Street

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
again with Memorial Stadium from 1st street. It looks like they are about to start putting the Brick on the center section. the elevators to the press box will open to the west, allowing people to step out to a great view of the Stadium Terrace fields.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
a not-so-great picture of the new Khan Tennis Stadium being build on the west side of the Atkins Tennis Center. The facility will have 12 outdoor courts and hopefully allow Illinois to host the National Championships as soon as 2010.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
you can see the new locker rooms and some of the concrete bleachers are built already.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
this is the old Horse Barn, along with one of the Chicken Coops, which used to stand behind the Atkins Tennis Center and Eichelberger Field (at Martin Stadium). These were both moved to a plot near the corner of Race and Windsor last week. The Mumford House, which is the oldest building on campus, currently located next to Temple Buell Hall on the South Quad, will be moved here as well. This will be a welcome center for the college of ACES.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
again with the old buildings.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
you can see the new 310 Burnham building rising up in the Champaign skyline (this picture taken from Springfield Avenue).

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
This is taken from Wright Street and Springfield Avenue. the new building being built is where Tonic used to be.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
View of Campustown from 6th and Chalmers. The Penn Station building used to be Kinkos, the building behind it on 6th and Green was built on top of an old Wendy's in 2006. The new building rising up in the background will be an Urban Outfitters and UI office space.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
a closer view of the Urban Outfitters/Office building on the 500 block of East Green Street.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
View of 6th street from between Green and Chalmers looking South.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
View of Green Street looking west from 6th Street. The 24 story 309 E. Green building looms in the distance. A 20 story building will be built in front of it (from this view).

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The new (and about to open) I-Hotel and Conference Center at the corner of 1st and St. Mary's, located just to the Southwest of Assembly Hall.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The hotel is supposed to be a 4-diamond hotel, and is operated by the same people who are building the Research Park.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
A Houlihan's restuarant is included

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
on the east wing of the building is a new conference center (creatively named the "Illinois Conference Center") which will be operated by the University.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Memorial Stadium from the South. Notice the new light standards are in place. Construction workers were doing something to the scoreboard, but I have no idea what.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
progress on cladding for the press box structure continues, the new light standards have been set in place.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
view from the southeast.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
closeup of the light standard and corner of the press box.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
inside the stadium, the north half of the new press box structure. Nearly all of the curtain wall for the stadium-side of the structure is in place

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
picture of the press box, and the new field being installed.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
From what I can tell, the only real major changes to the field are the addition of orange and blue stripes at the 20 yard lines, and the team boxes are now orange, instead of white.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
somewhat tilted view of the west stands.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
crews work to install the new playing surface behind the south endzone.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
closeup of the concourse in the west balcony. I can't say I'm a fan of the 80's-esque Orange/Blue band next to the Classical Revival ornamentation of the SW ramp tower.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
still a bit of a mess to clean up. The colonnade club outdoor seating area looks done except for some brick on the columns... and seats.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The North Endzone

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
closeup of the west side.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
again, with the press box.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
closeup of the north section of the press box. notice the divders inside the suite seating area, and how the center section on the 3rd floor is slightly recessed.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
SE tower with the lights removed.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Looking at the scoreboard.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
the seats have been renumbered to reflect the new seating arrangement. The section names haven't been changed yet.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
a picture that needs to be rotated... showing the details of the SE Ramp Tower.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
again, renumbered seats.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Opening day is 45 days away.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Countdown to 2008 - 6 Weeks to go: The changing landscape of college football:

7 Weeks till Kickoff: Recapping 2007
6 Weeks till Kickoff: Changing landscape of college football
5 Weeks till Kickoff: What needs to change about college football
4 Weeks till Kickoff: What to Worry about in '08
3 Weeks till Kickoff: Expectations
2 Weeks till Kickoff: Goals
1 Weeks till Kickoff: Rating our opponents
GAME WEEK: Predictions

Its a common rant,

"What the heck is XXXXX school doing in the Bowl Subdivision".
"Why is XXXXX school moving up to Division I?!"
"XXXXX school needs to move down!"

...and so on.

Answer the following:

Florida is:
  • A state in the southern US.
  • unable to NOT screw up an election.
  • God's waiting room.
  • A state with a an above average demand for electricity.
  • Home of 4 of the 17 largest four-year universities in Division I football.
The correct answer:

All of the above.

Florida is home to some very large schools, and some very large football programs.

Lets try another:

This school is the 6th largest school in NCAA Division I football. They play in a brand new stadium, average 44,000 fans per game, lost to Texas by only 3 points at home last year, and have been to a bowl game 2 of the last 3 seasons.

The school? The University of Central Florida.

Not bad for a school that is ready to begin its 13th season of Bowl Subdivision football.

The landscape of college football is changing. At one point last season, South Florida possiby was a contender for the National Title. USF's first football game EVER was a 80-3 win over Kentucky Wesleyan, in 1997. The 49,292 people that showed up for the inaugural game in Houlihan Stadium was the largest crowd to witness a USF game until last fall.

To say the landscape of college football is changing might be a bit disingenuous, it has always been changing. When Memorial Stadium was built Illinois was striving to match the facilities of east coast powers like Yale and Penn. Army and Navy were forces in the world of college football until the post-WWII years when recruiting and more demanding competition made it impossible for the service academies to be National Championship contenders.

The power base of football in the United States has undoubtedly shifted though, and changes to the composition of Division I football is starting to reflect that.

For the most part, colleges in Division I football can be sorted into the following categories:
  1. Land-grant colleges or large public institutions founded before the 1880's. (most of the Big Ten, Florida, Virginia, California, etc..) These schools are typically BCS-conference schools.
  2. Private institutions in BCS leagues that have been rivals with larger schools for many years (Notre Dame, Duke, Vandy, Northwestern, USC)
  3. Smaller regional schools founded in the late 1800's or early 1900's. (North Texas, Louisiana-Lafayette, Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois, etc). These schools are either in mid-major leagues like the Sun Belt, MAC, WAC, or are FCS.
  4. Land-Grant schools formed in southern states post-civil war for African-Americans during Segregation (Florida A&M, Grambling, etc...) these schools are all in the MEAC or SWAC conferences in FCS football.
  5. Small Private schools in FCS, alot of whom are in non-scholarship football (like the Pioneer League)
  6. Baby-Boomer schools. Schools either founded during the post-war years or smaller schools that were significantly expanded to meet the demands of the GI Bill, and the baby boomer generation.
What we saw in the last couple years, and will continue to see, is the rise of schools from obscurity into the established ranks of Bowl Subdivision college football. What was noted above, and is important to distinguish, is the difference between smaller schools who have always been mid-major schools, and rapidly growing universities that are bursting onto the national stage.

Schools like Louisiana-Monroe, which is located in upstate Louisiana with 7,200 students, or Wyoming, which is in the least populated state in the Union, aren't going to be competing for BCS games anytime soon. They just aren't. But schools like San Diego State (founded 1897, rapidly growing, tied with Illinois and Wisconsin for #38 in the Nation in last year's US News College Rankings) very well could.

The Sun Belt Conference, which is right now the weakest conference in the nation, could very well see a surge in the next few years. FIU and FAU are both building new stadiums, and schools like North Texas, Troy, and South Alabama are rapidly growing. The national population shift to Sun Belt states is starting to seep into the composition of division I football. Sun Belt schools have the benefit of being close to the talent.

These schools (USF was founded in 1955, UCF in 1963, FAU in 1964, and FIU in 1965) are all young colleges, but collectively have 155,751 students. Many of these post-war schools are evolving slowely from being essentially glorified community colleges to large public universities. Sure, they are communter schools, but they have less stringent entrance requirements, are located in large urban areas (great potential for exposure), and are investing quite a bit into their growing football programs.

What does this mean for the Big Ten? Directly, probably not a whole lot. Illinois, with a good coach, will still be an attractive destination, and will be able to recruit fairly well regionally and nationally. There is still plenty of talent in the upper midwest and northeast. As schools like USF and UCF become "acceptable" destinations for talented players to attend, it could put a squeeze on northern programs trying to import southern talent. The schools that could really be affected by talent and population shifts would be smaller schools who are, and have been, stuck in the lower tier of Bowl football.

Some General Predictions:
  1. Central Florida could very well see itself in the Big East in a couple years. the BEast needs football schools, UCF in the league means a natural rival for USF, and if scheduled properly, a guaranteed trip to florida each year for the other 7 Big East Schools.
  2. The Sun Belt and Conference USA might trade teams in the next few years. With a couple sun belt schools growing fast and putting alot of resources into football, and a couple CUSA programs barely keeping their head above water, we might see some changes.
  3. The MAC isn't going to like what happens when more and more kids start staying home to play for Sun Belt schools.
  4. Schools like Buffalo, Temple, Louisiana-Lafayette, and others are going to really have to question whether or not its worth it to continue playing football, or continue playing football in the FBS subdivision.
No changes in Bowl Football this year.

In the Championship Subdivision:
- North Dakota State and South Dakota State Universities join the newly named "Missouri Valley Football Conference" (nee: Gateway Conference).

- North Dakota and South Dakota (note the absence of the word "state") join the Great West Football Conference this fall to replace NDSU and SDSU... they are in the process of moving up from Division II.

New programs:
Remember when Title IX was supposed to be the end of small college football? Well, Title IX has certainly taken its toll on college wrestling and other sports, but college football is making a comeback.

Most ironic of them all is Western Kentucky, which actually cites moving from the former I-AA to Bowl Subdivision football as a way to GAIN Title IX compliance.

some recent and up coming additions to the world of college football:

- Western Kentucky is in the final transitional year of its move from Championship to Bowl Subdivision Football. The Hilltoppers will be the ninth football member of the Sun Belt conference in 2009.

- Also in the Sun Belt, the University of South Alabama will be starting a football program next fall in the Football Championship Subdivision. They hope be a FBS team in the Sun Belt in the fall of 2013.

- Campbell University (home of the Fighting Camel's) will reinstate football this fall as a non-scholarship Pioneer League program.

- Georgia State University, which has 27,000 students, will begin playing football in 2010. They will play in the Colonial Athletic Association with home games in the Georgia Dome.

- Old Dominion University will start up a football program next year, playing Colonial Athletic Association.

- Lamar University in Texas is expected to bring back its football program it dropped in 1989. The team will begin play in 2010 or 2011.

- The University of Texas at San Antonio has seriously considered adding football. The team would play its games at the Alamo Bowl. They hope to start in the FCS in the fall of 2010 or 2011.

More postseason bids...
The NCAA recently voted to expand the Division I Football Championships from 16 to 20 teams, giving the Big South and the Northeast Conference automatic bids into the NCAA tournament, and giving 2 more at-large schools entrance into the tournament.

At the same time, two new bowl games will be played in 2008/09, with the Congressional Bowl and the St. Petersburg Bowl being added. The Congressional Bowl, which will be played at Nationals Stadium, will have Navy (if eligible), Army, or a MAC team face off against an ACC opponent The St. Petersburg Bowl will have a Conference USA vs. Big East match up.

While the Big Ten dropped the ball by failing to get an additonal bowl game, either of these games could very well have open slots this winter, which may help the Big Ten indirectly should 10 schools become eligible again this fall.

2007 Recap, continued:

Week 3:
Illinois (1-1) @ Syracuse (0-3, would finish 2-10, 1-6)
Win 41-20 (Carrier Dome - Syracuse, NY - 34,188) - Video - Box Score

The 1-1 Illini headed to New York state for a showdown with hapless Syracuse. This was the final game of a two game series between Illinois and the "Orange". In 2006, the Illini lost 31-21 in Memorial Stadium, giving up 17 points in the 3rd quarter before Isiah Williams cemented his role as the starting QB for the Illini by throwin 2 long touchdown passes in the fourth quarter.

It was pretty clear heading into the game that Syracuse, was, well... aweful. Their first game of the year was a 42-12 throttling at the hands of Washington, and they followed it up with a 35-0 loss at Iowa. If Illinois was going to ever move out of the basement of college football, this was the day to do it.

Illinois started fast. The first drive was a beautifully executed 6 play 70 yard dash where Juice went 4-4 for 41 yards, including a 22 yard lob to Jeff Cumberland to give the Illini an early 7-0 lead just 2:04 into the game. Illinois would force Syracuse to go 3 and out twice before a 9 play 45 yard drive gave the Illini a 14-0 lead. The Illini defense kept Syracuse from getting anything accomplished for the rest of the first half, and the Illini marched into the lockerroom with a 17-0 lead.

After a rather unmemorable botched onside kick attempt, Syraucse managed a 44 yard field goal to make the game 17-3. Illinois then explodesd scoring a field goal and then 3 touchedowns on their next 4 possession to put the game away for good. 10 points by Syracuse in the final 4:28 made a 41-10 game a slightly less embarassing 41-20, but the Illini accomplished something they had not done in a long time, thouroughly beat the crap out of on opposing team. Furthermore, they did it on the road, and in a dome no less.

At the end of the game Illinois had accumulated 508 yards of offense, with 378 of them coming on the ground. Juice only passed for 97 yards, but he was a very effective 13-18 with no INT's and no sacks. Illinois so thouroughly dominated Syracuse in the trenches that we really didn't need to pass the ball at all. On defense the Illini gave up only 63 yards on the ground to Syracuse. The Orange managed to pass for 223 on 19-29 passing plays.

Week 4:
Illinois (2-1) @ Indiana
Win 27-14 (Memorial Stadium - Bloomington, IN - 34,707) - Video - Box Score

Another big game for the Illini. Illinois, fresh of its second road win in 4+ years needed to shake another demon: opening weekend of the Big Ten season. Not since 1993 had Illinois started the Big Ten season with a win.

(on a personal note, the last time I had been in attendance to witness Illinois defeat a FBS opponent was September 10, 2005, when we beat San Jose State 40-19, *shudder*)

After trading turnovers to start the game, Illinois moved the ball well, but couldn't finish a drive, as the Illini had to settle for 45 and 38 yard kicks from Jason Reda to lead 6-0 at the end of the First Quarter.

Once again, Illinois ran the ball very effectively (288 yards on the ground, 214 from Rashard Mendenhall). Once again, the passing game left something to be desired. Unlike the week before when Illinois didn't need to pass, against Indiana the passing game was just not very good. Juice finished 13-28 with 2 INT's and 2 TD's. To be fair, the Illinois receivers didnt' help much, most notably when Joe Morgan (correct me if I'm wrong) failed to catch a sure-fire touchdown pass late in the 3rd quarter that would have iced the game.

Ultimately, the game was won in the trenches. Rashard Mendenhall was awarded Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for his 214 yard, 2 touchdown (1 rushing, 1 receiving) performance, while Will Davis was awarded Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week honors for sacking Kellen Lewis 4 times. Illinois threw Lewis into the turf 7 times, holding the star QB to just 35 yards net rushing (including 58 yards lost). On plays where IU gained ground the Hoosiers racked up 198 yards rushing, but finished the game with a net of 134 yards on the ground, and 263 yards passing. The Hoosiers ultimately outgained Illinois 397-386, but a Vontae Davis interception, 3 lost fumbles, and a blocked punt killed any chance Indiana had in this game.

Also during the game, Freshman Troy Pollard tore his ACL, ending his season. Pollard, who ran for 32 yards, and had 97 yards against Syracuse the week before, was able to receive a Medical Redshirt and will be a RS Freshman this fall for the Illini.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Saturday, July 12, 2008

2008 Football Preview: Week 3 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

2008 Illini Football: Week 3

Location: Memorial Stadium (61,500), Champaign, IL
Gametime: 11:00 AM CT
Television: Big Ten Network (specific channel TBA)
Game Type: buy game
All Time Series Record: First Meeting

About Louisiana-Lafayette:
Nickname: Ragin' Cajuns
Athletic Conference: Sun Belt Conference
Location: Lafayette, LA
Founded: 1900
Enrollment: 15,564
Colors: Maroon and White
Home Stadium: Cajun Field (31,000)
2007 Record: 3-9 (3-4 in the Sun Belt)
2007 Attendance: 16,651

Ragin' Cajuns Team Previews:
New York Times (116th in the nation, 7th in the Sun Belt)
Rivals (97th in the nation, 4th in the Sun Belt)
College Football News


Memorial Stadium (61,500)

View Larger Map

Single Game Tickets go on sale July 22nd at 9AM CT. Only sideline tickets remain, the cost will be $45.

Season tickets are still available through, the price is $225.

Series History:
Illinois has never played the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Future Games:
ULL and Illinois do not have any future games scheduled.

Illinois presumably will schedule a similar "buy" game against a Sun Belt, MAC or similar-stature program at Memorial Stadium next season. In the past Illinois has played Ball State (2007), Ohio U (2006), San Jose State (2005), Western Michigan (2004) in this slot.

2008 Football Preview: Week 2 - vs. Eastern Illinois

2008 Illini Football: Week 2
Memorial Stadium Rededication Day
1950's era throwback uniforms will by worn by the Illini

Location: Memorial Stadium (61,500), Champaign, IL
Gametime: 11:00 AM CT
Television: Big Ten Network (specific channel TBA)
Game Type: buy game
All Time Series Record: Illinois Leads 1-0
Last Meeting: September 2, 2006 (42-17 Illinois win)

About Eastern Illinois:
Nickname: Panthers
Athletic Conference: Ohio Valley Conference
Location: Charleston, IL
Founded: 1895
Enrollment: 11,651
Colors: Blue and Grey
Home Stadium: O'Brien Stadium (10,000)
2007 Record: 8-4 (7-1 in the OVC) (Lost 30-11 to Semifinalst EIU in the first round of the NCAA FCS playoffs)
2007 Attendance: 7,411


Memorial Stadium (61,500)

View Larger Map

Single Game Tickets go on sale July 22nd at 9AM CT. Only sideline tickets remain, the cost will be $45.

Season tickets are still available through, the price is $225.

Series History:

Future Games:
EIU and Illinois do not have any future games scheduled.

The EIU game is part of the annual series of games between Illinois and a Division I Championship Subdivision Opponent. Illinois is scheduled to play Illinois State in 2009, and Southern Illinois in 2010.

The dates for future games are: (check back soon)

2008 Football Preview: Week 1 vs. Missouri

2008 Illini Football: Week 1
State Farm "Arch Rivalry" Game

Location: Edward Jones Dome (66,000), St. Louis Missouri
Gametime: 7:30 PM CT
Television: ESPN
Game Type: Year 2 of a 4 year contract to play in St. Louis
All Time Series Record: Missouri leads 14-7
Last Meeting: September 1, 2007 (40-34 Missouri Win)

About Missouri:
Nickname: Tigers
Athletic Conference: Big 12
Location: Columbia, MO
Enrollment: 28,477
Colors: Black and Gold
Home Stadium: Faurot Field (68,349)
2007 Record: 11-2 (7-1)
2007 Attendance: 60,232

Tigers Team Previews:
New York Times (not yet ranked)
Rivals (not yet ranked)
College Football News

For the second year in a row, Illinois will open the season in St. Louis in front of a split crowd against the Missouri Tigers. For the second year in a row, Illinois will be facing a ranked opponent hungry for a BCS bid.

Edward Jones Dome (66,000)

View Larger Map

Pregame Events:
Friday August 29, 2008
Arch Revelry on the Landing - 5:30 to Midnight, Laclede's Landing
Battle of the Pep Bands
Live music.

Saturday & Sunday August 30-31, 2008
Big Muddy Blues Festival - 2:00 to 11:45PM, Laclede's Landing

Saturday August 30, 2008
Illinois pregame tailgate (sponsored by the UI Alumni Association)
3:00PM to 7:00PM, Broadway and Convention Plaza


The game is soldout. Good luck.

Series History:
This will be the 22nd meeting all time between Illinois and Missouri. Missouri leads the alltime series 14-7. Missouri is currently on a 3 game winning streak, defeating Illinois in 2002 and 2003 at the Edward Jones Dome, and defeating Illinois last year in the first game of the renewed series.

This will be the 6th game all-time between the two schools played in St. Louis. In addition to the 3 game winning streak in the dome for the Tigers, Missouri defeated Illinois 37-6 in 1969 at old Busch Stadium, and Illinois defeated Missouri 10-0 in the first ever meeting between the schools back in 1896.

Future Games:
As of now, Illinois and Missouri have 2 games remaining on the contract. Both athletic departments have the option to continue the series after the 2010 game.

The dates for future games are:

September 5, 2009 - Missouri vs. Illinois (Illinois will be home) - Edward Jones Dome

September 4, 2010 - Illinois vs. Missouri (Missouri will be home) - Edward Jones Dome

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Countdown to 2008 - 7 Weeks to go: Look back at 2007

8 weeks until 2008:

7Weeks till Kickoff: Looking back at 2007

6 Weeks till Kickoff: Changing landscape of college football
5 Weeks till Kickoff: What needs to change about college football
4 Weeks till Kickoff: What to Worry about in '08
3 Weeks till Kickoff: Expectations
2 Weeks till Kickoff: Goals
1 Weeks till Kickoff: Rating our opponents
GAME WEEK: Predictions

This is Part 1 of an 8 part countdown to the 2008 season. Each week, I will rant on about my thoughts on various aspects of the upcoming Illinois season, the Big Ten, and college football in general. To make it more exciting on my part, I've created the 8 pages which will automatically post themselves at 10:30AM CT each Wednesday from now until 3 days before the Missouri game. So no matter what there will be new content on this page at 10:30AM each Wednesday... even if its a blank post. (note to self: quit being lazy)

This week: Recapping the 2007 Season.

The 2007 campaign was obviously a turning point for Illinois football. Going into the season, I was wondering if we could finally win at least 5 freaking games. Or better yet, win 6 games and somehow sneak into the Motor City Bowl. We faced a tough opening game in Missouri in St. Louis. Of our 6 home games, 3 were against the likely top 4 teams in the league, and our "easiest" opponents were mostly on the road, where we had won just 1 game in the previous 4 years.

So what do we do? We haul off 9 wins, throttle Minnesota and Syracuse in their houses, gut out memorable wins against Penn State and Wisconsin (the later to snap the longest winning streak in America), and beat Ohio State in the freaking horseshoe, giving the program its second BCS bowl berth ever.

For a program that has been up and down (mostly down) over the last decade, only Ohio State and Michigan have been to more BCS games (with Wisconsin also qualifying for two BCS games all-time). This is more a testament to the wacky roller coaster that's been Illinois football over the years than it is a statement of our power, but it speaks to our potential.

A lot happened outside of Illini Nation last fall. It was an up and down year for college football, and a bad year to be ranked #2. Here's the week by week run-down of the #1 and #2 teams in college football:

Week 1 - #1 USC and #2 LSU both win comfortably... nothing out of the ordinary here...
Week 2 - #2 LSU crushes Virginia Tech... USC sleeps in.
Week 3 - #1 USC beats Nebraska, #2 LSU smokes Middle Tennessee
Week 4 - USC and LSU win again... I promise this stops getting boring soon.
Week 5 - USC squeaks past Washington, LSU beats Tulane... THEN things get fun:
Week 6 - #2 USC lost to Stanford 24-23 on possibly the play of the year. LSU defeats Florida.
Week 7 - Upstart Kentucky beats #1 LSU in triple overtime, while new #2 California lost to Oregon State 31-28 due to QB stupidity.
Week 8 - #2 South Florida (WHO!?) lost to Rutgers 30-27. New #1 Ohio State beats Michigan State 24-17 (more on South Florida and the landscape of college football next week)
Week 9 - #1 Ohio State beats Penn State, AND #2 Boston College managed to stage a late game comeback to prevent being upset by Virginia Tech... they won 14-10 with both touchdowns in the last 131 seconds of the game... pretty vanilla week all things considered.
Week 10 - #2 Boston College loses to Florida State 27-17... #1 Ohio State thumps Wisconsin (and in Minneapolis, Juice Williams has a pretty good day... not that that has anything to do with anything, or does it?)
Week 11 - #1 Ohio State, who had won like 200 straight Big Ten games, loses to Illinois 28-21... and I lost my voice. #2 LSU beats Louisiana Tech.
Week 12 - LSU, who is #1 AGAIN, beats Mississippi handily. #2 Oregon loses to Arizona 34-24 and lost Dennis Dixon... putting them out of commission for the rest of the year.
Week 13 - as the Big Ten sat and watched #1 LSU loses 50-48 (in triple OT AGAIN) to Arkansas, and #2 Kansas (yes, Kansas went to a final four and a BCS game this year, something sounds odd about that eh?) lost to Missouri 36-28 in Arrowhead Stadium.
Week 14 - Just when you thought there couldn't be any more chaos... #1 Missouri (don't worry, it only lasted a week) got torn apart by Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game (this is why I don't like Championship Games) and #2 West Virginia lost to Pittsburgh. That's right... BIGGEST GAME IN SCHOOL HISTORY AND YOU LOSE TO A 5-7 TEAM COACHED BY DAVE WANNSTEDT?!?

2007 was an absolutely crazy season. The rise of relative unknowns onto the scene defined the season. USF, a school that DIDN'T HAVE A FOOTBALL PROGRAM the last time Notre Dame won a bowl game, found itself #2 in the nation (and they were a pretty good team, just not THAT good). Traditional basketball powers Kentucky and Kansas jumped onto the scene, with the Jayhawks and Missouri playing perhaps the biggest game of the regular season. Hawaii had its best season ever (and with June Jones gone, a crummy stadium, and apathetic school administration, we won't hear about them again for a LONG time) and played its way into the BCS. Traditional powers like Notre Dame sagged. Michigan, the Domers, West Virginia and USC all had probably their most embarrassing loses in decades.

So where do the Illini fit into all of this? Clearly, Illinois followed the trend of non-traditional powers rising up. Unlike South Florida and Kansas, Illinois had SOME tradition to back it up. We have been here before, but in recent history (for the last 15 years) only for a fleeting moment. In the history of college football, Illinois finds itself in an odd place. Memorial Stadium stands as a reminder of a time when we were a national powerhouse. The place is a cathedral to the game, and in 1924 only a couple comparible facilities stood across the nation. Yet, over the decades Illinois has been up and down. It seems that more often that not, Illinois was either really good, or really bad. Teams like Hawaii and to some extent Kansas remind me of the 2001 Illini... a perfect storm where all the pieces came together. Kansas might have some staying power, but with a tougher Big 12 schedule this year, and Mangino "on a diet"

... with respect to the non-conference slate, Kansas is really going to have to earn it this year. They will be a decent team, but I would be beyond shocked to see them in another BCS game.

With the Illini, things seem different. As I said last year, 2007 will be the most fun any of us will ever have watching Illini football. There were few expectations (more on expectations in 4 weeks). When the Illini played Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State, they were able to simply play football. I think most Illini fans knew we had a shot in those games, but they were certainly games that no reasonable person could really be too upset about if we had fought hard and lost. Yet the team played their guts out, made plays they had never made in the previous 4 seasons, forced errors they had failed to force previously, and in crunch time, didn't break. Last year was fun. I will always maintain that last year's Illinois team over achieved. Some may see that as a negative comment, but I mean it sincerely. Last year's Illinois team was the product of recruiting classed ranked (from 2007 back to 2004) 20th, 28th, 45th, and 44th.... yet we beat the eventual national runner up and earned a trip to the Mecca of College Football. We were ranked as high as #13 in the nation.... and we did it with senior leadership and underclassman talent. In 2001 there was a feeling that all the pieces had come together, and Illinois ran to a Big Ten title. In 2007, it was an Illini team that seemed ahead of schedule. The most pointed criticisms against Ron Zook revolve around his supposed lack of coaching ability, the inability of Zook to get the best out of his players. Critics argued that Zook would eventually be able to assemble enough talent to win, but that he couldn't get his players to play up to or beyond their potential. Last season serves as a resounding argument against that logic. My prediction going into the season was that we would win 1 game we had no business winning, and lose 1 game we had no business losing. We certainly got "Zooked" at Iowa, and the Ohio State game will for decades stand out as one of the greatest wins in school history.

People will always ask, did Illinois deserve a trip to the Rose Bowl? Its a loaded question. I think its safe to say Illinois wasn't one of the top 10 teams in the nation, but thats not how BCS bids are chosen. I think Missouri clearly got screwed by the BCS (more on that in 2 weeks in "What needs to change about college football"), but its not our fault they didn't make a BCS game, the system failed them. Within the framework set forth by the BCS, I think its safe to say Illinois deserved its Rose Bowl nod. If Illinois didn't go, who would have gone? Boston College (ranked below Illinois) and Arizona State are the only two real contenders, as the Big 12 and SEC had 2 teams chosen already. The ACC was awful and really didn't deserve two bids, while Arizona State got clowned by #17 Texas in the Holiday Bowl, justifying Illinois' pick (and the Rose Bowl could not have chosen Arizona State anyways). Most years a 9-3 Illinois team probably wouldn't be a BCS contender, but last year wasn't an ordinary year. The Rose Bowl was between two mismatched teams that earned thier lots. Illinois, by overachieving and winning big games against Wisconsin, Penn State, and Ohio State... Southern California by choking on Stanford (and clearly not deserving Championship consideration).

With all the up and downs, 2007 is going to be a tough year to repeat. A cursory glance at some of the preseason predictions seems to indicate that the "experts" seem to think it could be another wild year, with some of the traditional powers struggling (or at least not up to par) and some new(er) faces in the Top 25 (Wake, Cinci, USF, Fresno State, BYU are all names to remember, on top of The Beloved).

With all the "change"... the top of college football in 2007, and likely again in 2008, remained the same. LSU and Ohio State are teams that have been at the top for years. USC, Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma and Florida will all be big names again this season. Illinois has cracked into being respectable, but we have a long ways to go to truly be a titan in the college football world. There will be ups and downs, we may not have a repeat of 2007 this year, the schedule isn't exactly favorable, but we will have a competitive team. We might not get some of the breaks, or make some of the plays, that we made in Champaign last year when it comes time to travel to Madison or State College.

Either way, it should be a fun year, the most important step is putting out a team that you know is capable of winning any game, and that is what we had last year.

Recapping 2007: Weeks 1 and 2

Week 1:
Illinois (0-0) vs. Missouri (0-0 entering game, would finish 12-2, 7-1)
The State Farm Arch Rivalry Series
Loss 40-34 (Edward Jones Dome - St. Louis, Mo. - 62,352) - Video - Box Score

2007 was a season where Illinois football changed. Despite an early lead off a blocked punt, the season started where it had left off in 2006. Missouri ran roughshod over Illinois in the first half in St. Louis, Juice was sent off with an injury, McGee fumbled the ball twice, and Missouri moved down field with impunity. A fumble on the goal line, a fumble after a kickoff... the same crap we had been watching for the last half-decade reared its ugly head again. We were down 23-6 at the half, we were down 37-13 with 6:11 to play in the 3rd quarter. Yet another blow out... in the stands it felt like the optimism we had for 2007 wasn't going to make it past Labor Day.

Then... we kept playing. McGee threw to Joe Morgan for a 15 yard gain on 3rd and 19 from the Illinois 28, and Illinois marched down field for a touchdown. 37-20. Missouri tried a reverse, fumbled the ball, and on the very next play McGee found Kyle Hudson streaking for the endzone. 37-27, which would be how the 3rd quarter ended. Early in the fourth Chase Daniel coughed up the ball (controversial call, it very well could have been ruled incomplete) and Illinois scored after recovering the ball on the Missouri 4 yard line. 37-34. A Missouri field goal and a couple punts set up the drive that unfortunately wasn't to be. Eddie McGee got Illinois all the way to the 22 yard line of Missouri before throwing an interception to Corneliu Brown on the goaline with under a minute remaining.

Missouri won, but Illinois managed to save themselves.

Week 2:
Western Illinois (1-0, would finish 6-5, 3-3) @ Illinois (0-1)
Win 21-0 (Memorial Stadium - Champaign, Il. - 48,301) - Video - Box Score

In week 2, Illinois opened up its home campaign (and the new North Endzone) with a 21-0 win over FCS Western Illinois. Offensively, Illinois was, well, pretty sad. Juice had a rough day, failing to throw the ball well, and Illinois didn't even get on the board until the second quarter, the result of a 32-yard scamper by newcomer Daniel Dufrene. Illinois did produce 400 yards of offense, but only 3 scores (Mendenhall, Dufrene, and Juice, all on the ground). The passing game was a sad 12-26 for 123 yards (Williams 12-24 for all 123 yards and 1 INT). Given how smooth Eddie McGee was in the pocket vs. Missouri, Illinois fans were getting restless.

The Illinois defense, however, put on clinic. WIU was held to only 152 yards of offense, and only completed 4 first downs. WIU managed 2 first downs on their opening drive, and only reset the chains twice during the game, with less than 4:00 to play in the first half, and with 6:30 to play in the game. WIU only threatened to score twice in the game, right after halftime when Walter Mendenhall fumbled a short opening kick on the 36 yard line (Illinois, specifically J Leman, stopped WIU on 4th and 1), and late in the fourth quarter when WIU missed a 38 yard field goal to preserve the shut out. It was the first time since a 31-0 blanking of Iowa in 2000 that the Illini had shut out an opponent.