Illini Football Season Preview

The Zooker

‘Round these parts, we’re ready for some college football.  That means Illini.  That means dubiously-informed opinions on the how, what, and wherefore said Illini might succeed, entertain, and/or disappoint this year.  We’re hoping for more of the former and less of the latter.  We’ll do this in a semi-analytical fashion, so let’s begin with some facts and move on.

2007= 9-4 and the Rose Bowl.  2008 = 5-7 and gnashing of teeth.  There are all kinds of neat statistics about the last two seasons, like how Illinois generated vastly more offense than their opponents last year, how the 08 defense allowed fewer yards than the 07 defense, like how many yards and touchdowns Juice Williams accumulated.  There’s also stats like Number of times Illini fans swore like sailors at the offensive play-calling, ability to miss key tackles, and number of screw ups on special teams.  We know Juice, Benn, et al could break some records this year.  We also know  the margins are slim.  So here’s a fun internal conversation that constitutes our official Beemsville preview.

How do we set the parameters for success? 8-5 and a top bowl game.  Anything less will be disappointing.  10-3, at least a share of the Big 10 Conference, and another BCS appearance should be the goal.

But the non-conference schedule is so hard! Yes, it is.  Top 10 in a difficulty.  And it’s wacky, too with those two December games.  But if you score more points than the other guy…

The Big 10 is tougher too. Yep.  No one’s really much worse (Wisconsin, Purdue maybe) and several teams like MSU, Michigan, and Iowa will certainly be better.  You have to earn it this year.  You have to score points.

How often do you throw to Rejus? Very often.  And run the option for him too.  If the other team doubles him all day, make them pay with Cumberland, Fayson, Ho-man and the rest.  Still, the offense should have double digits attempts to find Regis.

What about the defense? Throw it to Rejus…

C’mon, the defense! You want defense?  Let’s hope we suck less at tackling.  Really the only recipe for success is to score lots of points.  Just too many question marks – at linebacker (does Martez really want to hit people) in the secondary.

Throw it. Yes throw it.  Toss that porkskin and toss it deep, toss it often.  Use the pass to set up the run.  Use the pass to set up more passing.  Play WAC-ball.  Play the spread.  Go Red Raider on their ass.  Put opposing defensive coordinators in mortal fear of being pantsed on TV.  RUN UP SCORE.  SHOOT FOR 50 EACH GAME!

What about ball control? F@#k ball control.  A 60-40 pass-run split.  Score points.  Against the better teams on our schedule, we’ll need 40+ to win because we ain’t going to stop them.  Spread it out throw it throw it throw it throw it throw it.

But Locks is gone! Hallelujah.

Special Teams could be better. Honestly, they couldn’t be much worse.  The kicking game should be greatly improved, and let’s hope we (finally) learned some lessons on the coverage teams.

What about the offensive line? Pray they stay healthy.  This is the one area we really can’t afford a lot of injuries.

Who features at running back? Who cares.  It’s the secondary option.  Hand-off to whoever’s hot and doesn’t fumble.  But don’t handoff too often unless we’ve already hit forty on the scoreboard.  Unless you’re giving it to this guy

When does your key stretch come? A look at the schedule tells us it’s the three-game stretch in late Sept, early Oct.  That would be OSU, PSU, MSU – your conference preseason 1, 2, and 3.  Win two of those three and you’re golden.  One of three would be OK, too, just don’t go 0-fer…

Are we ready for Mizzou this year? Probably not.  Has a Zook team every looked ready on opening weekend?  That said, the Tiggers aren’t as good, so maybe we can finally get them as the Arch Rivalry comes to a close.

What about Michigan.  We never beat them twice in a row. This year, baby, this year!

Who is your MVP? Seriously. #9.  Actually it’s probably Juice.  If he’s just a little more accurate and a little less turnover-prone, the Illini are seriously dangerous.  So much will come down to play-calling and our offensive scheme.  Are we the aggressor?  Is the ghost of Locksley still with us?  Do we worry needlessly about ‘establishing our ground game’?

How do we stop hi-grade offenses like OSU, PSU, etc.? With the dynamic duo of Mallory and Disch, you seriously have to ask that question?  You do.  Oh.  I say, blitz early and often.  Go for the big play.  If the other team scores, it just gives us the ball again.  In all seriousness.  Throw it to Rejus.

At least we won’t have the Big 10 Network’s ‘The Journey‘ kicking us around! Damn straight!  Stupid ‘The Journey, shining the harsh cold light of reality upon the illustions of the Orange and Blue faithful…

Don’t you have anything insightful to offer? Throw it to…  Fayson?

Come on, boob! Two things to watch: does Illinois attack on offense or do they ‘try to build balance and confidence’.  Does the defense miss tackles and allow big plays or do they pressure the pocket and/or come up with turnovers.  If Illinois is + in turnover margin and Juice throws around 30 TDs, we are looking BCS.  If guys get hurt and we continue to choke in the red zone, well, hoops should be really interesting this winter!

Go Illini!

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2 thoughts on “Illini Football Season Preview

  1. Fairly accurate descriptions as far as I can tell. You’ve been saying for 2 years that Lox was part of the problem and not part of the solution and he LOVED to chuck it long. We’ll see if a guy like Schultz (clearly more seasoned as an OC than Lox when he took over) doesn’t try for more balance (the guy did coach/mentor/develop Ladanian Tomlimson). And I think you’ve got two potential studs (Ford and Leshoure) and a potential super star (Green) in your backfield. Release the Hounds!

    ILL-

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