Saturday, November 14, 2009

Misery is Over ... Prep for 2010

Well, it's official - we're not bowl inelgibile for 2009/2010. Ugh! Actually, it's a relief to be hoonest. What will likely go down as one of the most disappointing seasons in Illinois foot ball history is just about over. We should use the next two weeks against quality opponents as intense schrimaages to develop the squad in all aspects of the game. Forget about winning. That doesn't matter anymore. Instead, let's get Charest some quality snaps and time in down and distance situations. Sure, he'll continue to make mistakes but hopefully he learn as he develops into our QB of the future.

Give credit to the WILDCATS for winning the inaugural Land of Linoln Trophy on the heels of the last Tomahawk Trophy. Right now, NW is a more complete football team - especially in the mental game. They're just tougher than we are, and smarter. Kafka had another great game post 305 yards on 23 of 37 passing and no mistakes. Our defense played well today for the third week in a row, especially in the first half until giving up a late TD right before intermission. That turned out to be a huge game-changing play. We trailed all game after that.

As for the Zooker, I mean what can I say? He's only a man. He can't rebuild Rome in 7 days. No doubt, he's not the greatest collection of football acumen in today's modern game. I mean, what the hell was that? Why were we throwing the ball right before halftime? Pick, short field, TD NW heading into the break. Ugh! Still, palyers have to play and coaches have to coach. And the Zooker can recruit wtih the best of them. Getting all of that talen to play together as a team has been another story. Assuming he comes back for a 6th season, what should the expectations be? How many years can we keep blaming the 'young team'? Sooner or later somebody within the University needs to start asking the tough questions. Nevermind, we haven't been competitive in over 60 years. Why start now.

Changing gears, it's now basketball season where hopes are much higher for the Illini hoopsters. Sure, we took care of business last night against SIEU, 96-69. Our freshmen class is top-10 quality in the nation with Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson leading the way THIS YEAR. Yes, excitement and expectations are high for ILLINOIS BASKETBALL in 2009/2010. It didn't take long for Paul to get into the record books with his 22 freshmen points, breaking Deon Thomas' 21-point effort back in 1990. Wow! As freshmen, Richardson and Paul are starters for the first time since 2002 when Williams, Brown, and Augustine took the floor as freshmen starters for Bruce Weber. We have three more tune-up games at home against cupcakes until we face UTAH in VEGAS on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

It's only November, but the Chief is into some early-season predictions for Illinois Basetball, 2009-2010:

1) 20 wins and an NCAA tourney appearance are a lock.
2) We will win our first two tourney games en route to the SWEET 16.

My top 10 heading into the beginning of rivalry season:

1) Florida - nobody's beaten them yet.
2) Texas - Horns are playing their best ball of the year right now.
3) Bama - good win against MSU. Essentially a tie with #1 and #2 for now.
4) TCU - did you see what happened in Ft. Worth tonight against Utah? Close at top.
5) Georgia Tech - they look better and better to me each week with each win.
6) Cincinnati - slipping a bit this week after a battle at home with WV.
7) Boise State - poor Broncos, just nobody on their schedule to showcase their skills.
8) LSU - Tigers only two losses are against Bama and Florida. Not bad.
9) Oregon - Tough loss last week. Good recovery this week. Off to Tucson.
10) Ohio State - I mean you have to stick the BIG-10 champs in here somewhere.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Oops, We Did it Again! We Played with Your Hearts ...

To steal a line from that great musical thespian of our Age, Brittany Spears - Oops, he did it again. He played with your hearts. The Chief won another ball game this week in Minneapolis over those dreaded Golden Gophers from the northland. And I was wrong, it happened before universal health-care passed the senate. Wow, just goes to show you that when it comes to college football, you just never know what will happen in the greatest show on earth.

Seriously though, how about those ever-improving Illini Gridders? That's now two in a row form over the M-schools (Michigan and Minnesota, bowl likely going to bowl games this year). And the way we played yesterday on TCF Bank Field was very encouraging to me. It's like we're actually getting better with the passing weeks of what has to be some of the best practice sessions in the country right now. You can see the team grow in confidence and skill with the passing of each minute.

As for yesterday's performace, digest these numbers:

1) Charest and Juice combined on 15-25 for 238 and 2 TD's, no INTS. Wow!
2) We were 9 for 17 on third downs, and 1 for 1 on fourth downs (3/4 in red zone).
3) Where has this defense been all year? Chief registered seven (7) sacks on Sat.
4) We dominated the line of schrimmage, with 8 more tackles for loss.
5) Hawthorne remains a game-changer with his pick-6 yesterday. Nurse had 4 sacks.
6) We held Weber to just 221 yards on 14-31 passing, down from his 416 last week.
7) The win makes two in a row over Minnestoa in Minnesota (44-17 in 2007).

More importantly than the final numbers, the win is another watermark that this team, still not very good, is improving each and every week. We'll need to if we want to become bowl-eligible this year with games against Northwestern (home), Cincy (road), and Fresno State (home) to close out the 2009 campaign.

And what another crazy Saturday of CFB it was yesterday. In the BIG-10, Iowa and Penn State were both upset at home, nonetheless. Wow! Nationally, USC had to hang on against lowly ASU. Oregon lost a barn-burner in Palo Alto. Oklahoma lost a defense struggle in Lincoln. And the Beavs took down CAL in Strawberry Canyon. Wacky stuff for sure.

For the Heisman race, it's really heating up between Gerheart (Stanford), Spiller (Clemson), Keenum (Houston), McCoy (Texas), and Ingram (Bama) - that's it. I don't want to hear any more talk about Tebow, for now. He's clearly off the list and on the radar with his lackluster performance this season (so far). You can't throw 2 pick-6's and against Mississippi State and expect to be taken seriously. His numbers are down and the team is winning ugly. I view this individual award as an MVP of sorts, going to the most outstanding player in the nation and not necessarily to the perceived pop-culture star of an undefeated and overrated media darling.

Now, for my TOP-10:

1) Gators - until they're beaten. Winning ugly never looked so unimpressive.
2) Horns - the true inside track to Pasadena is theirs to lose over the next month.
3) Tide - good win yesterday against a gutty LSU club. Bama keeps rollin'.
4) Cincy - only because they keep winning even without Pike. Kelly can coach.
5) TCU - right on the Bearcats' heals. May be most-balanced/dangerous team in country?
6) Georgia Tech - the Ramblin' Wreck is fun to watch these days. And playing well.
7) Boise State - not their fault, but the Broncos just aren't getting tested anymore.
8) Pittsburgh - I know, hard to believe. Panthers sneak into the TOP-10.
9) Houston - last second win ears the Cougars a slot this week.
10) Arizona / Oregon / Miami / Ohio State - take your pick here. I can't separate them.

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