Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chief on the Chief - 2k10 Football Preview

Every year the Chief opines about Illini football. I know what you're thinking, and yes, the therapy is expenseive. My butt has been logging serious couch time this decade, the exception of the 2007 season and 2008 Rose Bowl where we took USC to the limit.

Yep, I did watch that game schmuck. But this is August, and optimism is rampant. If not running wild. And the Chief has seen some good things come out of spring ball and Camp Rantoul this summer. It's the end of the Juice Era (experiment) in Champaign; time for the new blood to step in and step it up.

For starters, the defense should be a lot better this year simply for the fact that we get Mr. Wilson back at LB / DE / S / C / EVERYTHING. He's a stud ball hunter when he's healthy. And, from what I've read and seen this offseason, he's healthy. Mr. Luiget and Mr. Nurse also enter this campaign with high expectations and need to have monster years on the DL. Chief also looks for Mr. Frierson (6-2 / 230) to make some big plays at LB. In the secondary, the DB's and SAFETY's need to step it up and keep the plays in front of them. Yep, I'm calling out Bellamy, Henry, and Tavon Wilson in particular. They say defense wins titles. This year's squad needs to play championship football in holding the line, especially in the red-zone. We can't give up 30 points / game again and expect to win anything.

On offense, Nate will probably get the starting nod (RS FR) to replace Mr. Williams. Juice is gone. Eddie has moved over to WR, but could take a few interesting snaps this year. Scheelhasse will need lots of help and should get it from the RB's and WR's. LeShoure, Ford, Pollard, and Green have to carry the rock and the load in the running game. I expect big things from Mikel (including a 1500-yard season). And we have a bunch of tall wide-outs who need to catch the ball and roll up the RAC (run after catch).

Keys for the year:

1) Stop the run and run the ball.
2) Minimize three and outs on offense.
3) No big plays on defense. Minimize long drives. Man-up in the red-zone.
4) Don't force the ball. Eliminate unforced turnovers.
5) Have Fun and WIN!

So, where does that leave us? Here's my August prediction in what could be Zooker's last season if he doesn't reach a bowl game. It wouldn't hurt to beat Mizzou in the last opener with the TIGERS until they eventually join the BIG-10. They've onwed us under the arch in recent years. The remaining NC schedule is really tough with games against Southern, Northern, and Fresno State in Cali. If we can win the opener, you just never know. 10-2? Yeah, I'm dreaming. Somehow, this young team will find ways to lose games against Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, and likely Mizzou. You can essentially pencil in four losses right away. 8-4? Not out of the question if we get rollin'. Remember, defense wins games and may just do that once or twice this season.

Realistically, we haven't been strong against Northwestern of late. So, how does 7-5sound? Great to me if we can end the year with a win in Fresno against the Bulldogs. We owe them some love after last year's 53-52 home loss. The CHIEF knows 6-6 is about the best we can hope for with a Pizza Bowl game in our future. Unfortunately, I'm not sure we won't stumble at least once or twice against Southern, Northern, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, and Minnesota. And that results in 5-7 or worse which won't get it done for the Zooker in Champaign. Still, I expect a suprise or two is possible this year. We do get Ohio State at Memorial and play the CATS in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. And, like I said, Zook is on the hot seat; you just never know - it's CFB!!! As always, thanks for reading. I know you can get your daily entertainment elsewhere.

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