Over the next few weeks, we'll be providing a quick-hit, uninformed, uneducated, poorly-researched capsule preview of each Big Ten football team (you know, kind of like typical reporters). Why spend time bringing in guests who actually know something about these other schools when we can just make knee-jerk comments and predictions, with heavy bias based on our love of Boilermaker sports? Enjoy.
Last year: 5-7 Overall, 3-5 Big Ten
Vs. Boilermakers: Did not play
The Fighting Zookers took a step backwards in 2008, falling to 5-7 after a surprise 9-4 Rose Bowl season in 2007. But which was the bigger surprise? The 5-7 or the 9-4? Because if you take away the 2007 season, 2008 was still a step in the right direction for the Illini. They were 8-38 in the four seasons preceding their Rose Bowl run. That’s pretty bad. Zook came in and within a couple years had them reaching for double-digit wins.
The thing about Zook that everyone has repeatedly heard is that he can recruit like few others, his players would step in front of a train for him….and that he’s not the best X’s and O’s coach. Zooker can bring in the talent and motivate them and be their best pal, cover up their misdoings (boys will be boys!), but when they get out on the field, he needs quality coaches to help coordinate things. We’ll see if they can toe the line this year. Now to the schedule.
September 5 vs. Missouri
September 12 Illinois State
September 26 at Ohio State
October 3 Penn State
October 10 Michigan State
October 17 at Indiana
October 24 at Purdue
October 31 Michigan
November 7 at Minnesota
November 14 Northwestern
November 27 at Cincinnati
December 5 Fresno State
I’ll give the Illini this: they’re not afraid. Their only non-conference delicious cupcake is a home tilt with Illinois State, who you should expect to see Illinois beat by about 40. But then throughout the season they play FOUR teams who won ten or more games last year. OSU and PSU, obviously, but they start the season even before their cupcake with Mizzou! And they have Thanksgiving leftovers on Friday, Nov 27 at last year’s Big East champ, 11-win Cinci. Yikes.
They’re a hard team to predict, but since we don’t get paid for this, here we go.
Best case: 8-4. The Illini come out swinging but have to play Mizzou, OSU and PSU all within the first month. Yikes. If they come out of that 2-2, it’s not such a bad thing, because then they get four winnable games after that. Hard to imagine them beating eight wins.
Worst case: 3-9. It’s not impossible that the Illini continue their return to form (for this decade, anyway). They’d definitely be one of those teams whose poor record wouldn’t really be indicative of their talent because this is just a tough schedule.
Our prediction: 6-6. I think they start 1-4 and then it’s a question of heart – do they have enough to salvage their season? 5-2 down the stretch seems about right.