Pentagram: NIU v. Illinois

The game was kind of a snoozer – a predictable exercise in who had the will and beef to run the ball more effectively.  The Illini prevailed as they should against a smaller conference directional school, though as Tupper points out, this is the kind of game Illinois found a way to lose last year.  Are the Huskies any good?  Time and the MAC will tell…

One thing’s first certain though:  the Illini are better than Notre Dame right now.  At least we have that going for us.

Now it’s a bye week and then a major step up in competition as OSU comes to town.  Five points in your football analysis pentagram…

  • 70 yards passing will not win you many games.  Scheelhaase looked OK against SIU, but against NIU he was too quick to start dancing around and looking to run.  He also missed some easy throws.  The gameplan against Illinois has been written, and it reads, “make them throw it”.  The Buckeyes will stack the line and focus on the running backs, as will everyone else until we show something.
  • Scheelhaase might not have to worry about it though, if he keeps going airborne at the end of runs.  They sure look cool, but as everyone and their cousin has already noted, Nate won’t last long in the Big Ten if he does several leaps a game.  Plus now that they’ve seen it, other defenses will be ready and start going high.  Get ready, Miles Osei and Eddie McGee…
  • Leshoure can get it done, despite the indifferent O-line performance and a stacked box.  It would be nice to get him the ball on some flares and screens.  It would be nice to run out of the ‘I’ a little more and give him an extra blocker.  I expect we will continue to run him and Jason Ford hard, even when our yards-per-carry drops dramatically, because at least that eats the clock.  If we can somehow run somewhat effectively the next three weeks we might have a chance for an upset.  Play action should be there for Nate…
  • The defense looks much improved, but some of the old problems were there against the Huskies.  The penalties are one thing, Martez Wilson missing reads on the QB runs were another. Martez has to do better.  Right now this unit is patched together and in dire need of the bye to get healthy.  Their depth and resilience will be sorely tested.  You have to like the change in philosophy Vic Koenning has begun to instill, though.
  • This next stretch could be brutal. Somehow the Illini need to survive the next three weeks with their confidence intact.  Do that by not rolling over at home and not getting scorched on the road.  It would be nice to avoid anymore key injuries and get Terry Hawthorne and Zach Becker back in the mix.  Penn State and Michigan State don’t look as fearsome as they might, but road games are going to be a crapshoot with this team.  A lot will come down to the Illini’s ability to throw – the entire gameplan may hinge on it.

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