Saturday, August 30, 2008

Welcome Back - Week One Wrap 2k8!

It's amazing that the more things change the more they remain the same. Week one of each new CFB season is all about actualizing change. The hopes and aspirations of spring ball, summer camp, and pre-season polls are all exposed by the actions on the field. And unlike the Olympics, there is no hiding behind the judging of Eastern-block countries. Yes, that's why we play the games. Thank God it's football season.

Chief on the Tribe:

A new feature for the BLOG this year. Look forward to this section each week as I blog it up about ILLINOIS football. What can I say about the play under the arch tonight? At least we get kudos for playing a real opener unlike most (no cupcake in MIZZOU). This one felt more like a bowl game than an opening game. In some ways we're the most unlucky team in the nation after having played both USC in California and Mizzou in Missouri in consecutive contests. If both teams stay healthy, they will each make BCS games and could possibly face each other for the national title in Miami come January. That's how good the TIGERS are going to be this year, especially on offense. Right now, they're the only team that might make USC break into a sweat in head to head competition. Clearly, the men of Troy have a better defense and are the all-around best team in the land, by a long shot.

There is no question about Missouri's team speed; they're the fastest offense in the country whether through air or on the ground. Watching their offense execute is a thing of beauty, I must say. Everything is in sync. And their balance is amazing. WATCH-OUT BIG-12 Conference, you're in trouble if your schedule includes the TIGERS this year. They just gashed us all night long. We had no answers on how to stop them.

My squad came out of the tunnel too tight to play well. Juice finally started pitching completions instead of laser beams in the 2nd quarter, too little too late down the stretch. The offense made some big plays including Judson's great TD catch to keep it close early and then later in the 4th quarter. Juice had his best game passing ever: 25-41 for 453 yards and 5 TDs. But my defense really laid an egg tonight giving up 538 total yards- albeit against a team that is going to embarrass most clubs this year. We have to get more physical if we expect to stop anybody, much less a team like Missouri. Despite all that, we were within 2 or 3 plays of pulling off the upset. Seems like everytime we made a play Mizzou had an answer. At least we came back a bit in the 2nd half against the best team we'll face all year. And give credit to the Zooker; the recruiting is starting to pay off (now in 11 states).

But, what's up with falling behind early in big games only to trade points for the duration? It seems we only settle into games after we dig ourselves into deep holes. Great teams get up early on their foes and pound the rock all night long: USC, Florida, LSU, Georgia, and Mizzou come to mind. Unnecessary penalties, poor tackling, excessive deliberation on offense, and missed opportunities in most facets of the game remain hallmarks of Illinois football. We think we're better than we really are. You just can't play 3 quarters against teams like Mizzou. That's what makes it hard to watch at times. 119 years of grid-iron action and no national titltes. Ugh! Up next Eastern and Louisiana LaFayette, so we should be 2-1 before we hit the road to play Penn State in Happy Valley (ballgame). Best thing about week 1 is that it's over, and we move to week 2.

5 Teams that impressed today:

1) ECU - beating Beamer with Beamer ball. Not a total shock this year.
2) Penn State - 66 points against Coastal Carolina. Lions executed for Joe Pa.
3) Wisconsin - 3rd QB in 3 years. Continuity on offense remains the same.
4) Stanford - Made of the most of Beaver miscues at home. Won't be their last conference W.
5) South Carolina - Defense is very good. Offense is improving. Coach is a champion.

And how about the non-BCS? Not only did ECU beat VT, but kudos to Fresno State (Rutgers), Utah (Michigan), and Bowling Green (Pitt).

5 Teams that disappointed (besides the entire ACC):

1) Va Tech - Lots of inexperience and concerns on offense, and defense, and special teams.
2) Michigan- Rebuilding doesn't appear to be on the fast track in Ann Arbor.
3) Oregon State - A bad loss to Stanford. Not what the doctor ordered. Up next, Penn State.
4) Pitt - A great example of how meaningless pre-season polls can be.
5) Clemson - after all of that pre-season TOP-10 hype, I should have known better.

My Week One Top-10: who'd you play and who'd you beat?

  1. USC - AFC, USC, SEC, and the NFC in that order. No team does it better. Same old song.

  2. Missouri - Is there a faster squad in the country? This team is very very dangerous.

  3. Oklahoma - Maybe the only team that can stop the TIGER express in the BIG-12.

  4. Georgia - Are they for real? Hard to tell after a blowout of Georgia Southern.

  5. LSU - Impressive over App. State. Then again, beating Michigan isn't what it used to be.

  6. Florida - GATORS are getting healthy. Remain speedy and talented. Tough schedule.

  7. Ohio State - Losing Wells today isn't good. Anyone can beat Youngstown State.

  8. Auburn - Two words, Louisiana Monroe? King of cupcakes. Where are the sprinkles?

  9. WV - Pat White by air? 3TDs with the pass today, all against Villanova.

  10. Wisconsin - Flying a bit under the radar in my opinion. Evridge looked confident to start.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

More Pre-Season Polls and Speculation ...

AP came out with their pre-season poll today (link above). And yes, I have a few thoughts:

  • Yes, Georgia is too high at #1 - for now. Sure they're mighty talented on both sides of the ball returning 16 starters from 2007 (and speed to burn). But all of off - season strife this summer(injuries, arrests, academic violtaions, and dismissals) has to take its toll. Let's see what happens after ASU.
  • I don't have too many issues with the rest of the TOP-10 until we get to Clemson @ #9. I mean come on, it's Clemson. You know somewhere / somehow they'll find a way to lose two or even three games they're expected to win.
  • BIG-10 places four in the TOP-25, not bad. Illinois at #20 is fairly respectable. Our challenge in 2008 will be consistency. We need to demonstrate that the program is moving forward from last year's success. Let's face it, last year was somewhat of a surprise. But with huge games against Mizzou, @ Penn State, @ Michigan, and @Wisconsin we'll have our chances. Sometimes you have to take a step back before you can leap ahead. Look for a solid 2008 campaign (7 wins) but even bigger things in 2009.

So, without further fan-fare - I give you my first TOP-10 of the year (totally meaningless, I grant you that point):

  1. USC - I actually watched the Rose Bowl for four quarters. Nobody has more depth.
  2. Georgia - Show me more than beating Hawaii in New Orleans. Stay out of the papers.
  3. Missouri - Scary team to me. Loaded w/ talent and more experienced than last year.
  4. Oklahoma - Bobby is due for some luck in 2008. Oklahmoma wins its Bowl Game.
  5. Florida - Just how long will Tebow stay healthy? Otherwise, talent/speed to burn.
  6. LSU - Hard to demote the national champs. Shouldn't somebody have to beat them first?
  7. Ohio State - Lots of returning talent. We'll know if they have enough on 09/13 @ USC.
  8. West Virginia - New coach this year. But they still have Pat White.
  9. Texas - Tough conference schedule. Two words - Mac Brown. Two more - 10 wins.
  10. Wisconsin - Why not? PJ Hill and a favorable schedule. All tough games at home.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Few Thoughts for 2008

Welcome back folks. The chief has emerged from his long off-season slumber after taking it on the chin from USC in the Rose Bowl. How fun was that? Actually, the Rose Bowl was a lot closer affair than the average fan thinks. A few breaks here, a few turnovers there and BAM - it's a whole different ball game. It's a good thing I'm not average. And I did watch the same game on ABC as you did.

But, that was last year and this is this year. Much like you, I've read the articles, seen the pre-season polls, and paroused the power rankings over the past few weeks. Most experts have us finishing 2nd or worse in the BIG-10 this year behind the Ohio State University - great club BTW. Ohio State has a great chance of getting back to the title game in January. Looking forward to that 09/13 matchup with the men of Troy.

Back in Champaign - Urbana, Camp Rantoul is in full swing. It's the 4th year under the Zooker. Everybody and his brother admits that last year was a surprise (9-4). But I'll take it. Because of Zook and his staff, this program has been turned around and is clearly marching in the right direction. But can we match the intensity, performance, and results of last year? It's going to be very tough, especially with our conference schedule (road games @ Penn State, Wisconsin, and Michigan). Sometimes you have to take a step or two backwards before you can move forward. Look out for the Chief in 2009. That is going to be a special year for the Illini Gridders. Stuff that in your pipe and smoke it.

As for this year, 7 wins seem reasonable. It's clealry Juice's team heading into fall practice. Anything more will be another 'exceeds expectations' kind of season. Don't get me wrong, we should shoot for the stars and another BIG-10 Championship. And give Zook some credit. He can coach. Until next time - Oskee Wa Wa; hail to the Chief!

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