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.

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