Monday, August 27, 2007

ILLNI Preview - Missouri

Well, In approximately 5 more days the University of ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI take on Missouri inside the controlled climate of the Edward Jones Done (St. Louis). This will actually be a neutral-game site since it's about 1/2 way between Champaign and Columbia, although the game is being played in the Show - Me state.

All in all, our opening - day record is an impressive 74-38-5. Scratch that. When you look at our competition over the years these numbers are somewhat deceiving. But hey, how many other top programs open up with a tough opponent on a neutral field? Let's see. I think USC hosts that super-power from Moscow (Idaho Vandals). And yes, last year's cinderella (Rutgers) is hosting that always game-worthy team in Buffalo. Throw in Florida and Western Kentucky with Oklahoma and North Texas and you have some real barnburners in the making.

So what else do the numbers tell us about Illinois football in its 118th season. Heck, the BIG-10 has only been around 112 years. Seems like yesterday we were in our 100th season. I will say this, you can only hype - up youth for so long. For the past few years we've been the youngest team in the NCAA. So what, that hasn't really translated into much success on the field. And even though we had the 40th most difficult schedule in the nation last year, there's no excuse for amassing only two (2) victories. Ugh! Mizzou leads the all-time series 13-7 including three of the last four and four of the last six. Ugh Ugh!
On the positive side, we were 10th in the nation last year in rushing while leading the BIG-10 with 188.8 yards / game and 5.2 yards / rushing attempt. That means we had a terrible passing game clicking away with a 39.5% completion rate. More good news, we had 49 plays last year of 20 yards or more so we have the big play in our arsenal, including three TD passes over 60 yards. Fairly impressive numbers.

We made our biggest improvements as a team last year on defense. This year we return nine of eleven startes from last year's squad. Yes! We shaved 160 yards / game off our defensive numbers year on year from 2005 to 2006 (very impressive, but we had a lot of room to cut). In terms of rushing defense, we only allowed 127 yards / game for a net gain of 61 yards / contest. Keep in mind that we gave up nearly 500 yards / game in total offense in 2005 (yuck!). Other than these numbers, we're doing a good job in the classroom and for the community.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Why College is better than the NFL

We see these types of articles come out each year. As a matter of fact, I think I did one myself in 2006. So why do this again? Many reasons actually - but the best I can think of right now is that who the hell remembers what I said last year? I don't.

So, in the epic debate between college and pro, which one is really better? Personally, I stopped watching most pro sports except for auto racing and golf back in the 90's. Actually, I pretty much gave up on MLB after a series of strikes in the 80's and 90's which ended up screwing the little guys and the fans while the owners and players emerged much richer for their 'efforts'. And then there' s 'pro' basketbatll and 'pro football'. Honestly, does anyone see a difference between these two leagus and the WWF or WWE or whatever series of WWW the pro-wrestling federation employs? I mean come on?

Michael Vick makes me sick. And what's his face (the NBA official - Donagy (sp?)) and his cronies who were in on the fix and take. Yeah, I'm sure everyone who purchased a ticket to one of those games feels good about it now. And who can forget the Tour de France? That event has been flawed for years with tabloid ariticles and unsubstantiated / substantiated facts around doping. Yuck - you can have pro sports. No big gain there from my side of the fence.

Dodd gets is right (and so do many othes this time of year). Check-out his article at the link above, but here's a snip-it as to what you'll find there:

NFL: Killing dogs.
College football: Damn Good Dog.
NFL: Punching some guy in the stands.
College: Dotting the I before the game.
NFL: Sideline supertramps.
College: USC's Song Girls.

And does Mandel. Both are great sources of ammo for this classic grid-iron debate against the big boys and their inflated paychecks. Here are my top-5 from his list:

1) Fight songs performed by actual, live bands and written prior to 2003.
2) Cheerleaders without silicone.
3) Rivals that only play each other once a year.
4) Games with national-title implications in September.
5) A Seminole on a horse riding to midfield and throwing a flaming spear.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Illini Football 2k7 Predictions and More...

OK, I'll finally put my mouth where my foot has been most of the past 5 years. Oh, that Sugar Bowl against LSU in 2002 seems so long ago. Where has the time gone? I know we've only won something 2 of our last 32 BIG 10 games, but who's really counting anyway? Some teams rel-load each year, others rebuild, but my squad has taken the deliberate and tortuous route over the past five years to do it right, or not! Hey, we're upgrading our football stadium (Memorial Stadium) as part of the Illinois Rebirth.

Fine, you want me to be serious. Come on, it's been 5 long years of one joke after another. Any other man would surely have folded under such immense pressure. But not yours truly, I'm hear to tell you that I've weathered the storm better than the Persians and Xerxes versus Lianitis and the Spartans (I just saw 300 - good flick). Or was that dermatities? Aristotle? Socrates? Whomever ....

CNN just came out with its BIG-10 Preview for 2k7 (click link above). Of course, Michigan is on there going 11-1; same for Wisconsin. Although, I argue that you can't spell LLOYD CARR without two L's. You do the math. I know Ill be right come late November. I digress - because you really came hear for the ILLINI prediction this year. Yes, ILLINOIS football is back - not just physically, but ready to assume its rightful spot atop the BIG-10 (yes, I remember Jack Trudeau, Tony Eason, and Jeff George). CNN has us going 7-5 this year and 4-4 in conference. That might be a bit optimistic, but nonetheless we're going bowlin' and I'm sticking with my 6-6 prediction. Don't ask me to explain where all of the wins are going to come from just yet; I can't. But that's not important.

Lost in all of the losing lately has been some great individual and team play. Leman has been a stud for us the past four seasons at middle linebacker - one of the best in the land averaging 13 tackles / game. He's back this year and will be a difference maker and leader on defense. Our runnning game led the conference last season with Williams and Mendenhall (left) taking top honors in that department. Expect more of the same this year. Rashard M. averaged 8.2 yards / carry last season on 78 attempts - not bad. Juice Williams put together almost 600 yards on the ground as QB; and he didn't play or start in all games. And watch out for Regis (Arrelious Benn - top left photo) at wideout this fall. At 6'2" and 215 pounds, he's going to make an instant impact as a freshmen at WR. Sportsenter has been warned. It's the 3rd season for the Zooker and he's a coach on the rise. How else do you explain a TOP-15 recruiting class this past year after only amassing two (2) victories? Talk about salesmanship. Thank God for text messaging. It's shaping up to be a fun year in Champaign, finally! Yes, we're thinking bowl season.

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