We're too lazy to actually go ahead and learn anything about other teams, so we bring in people who know stuff about those teams so we don't have to sound like complete blowhards.
Today: Tom Fornelli from The Champaign Room
SoP: So, um, Illinois football, huh? (Respond however you please.)
FEEL THE EXCITEMENT. Oh, no, wait, that's just terminal cancer. Shit.
Since No. 24 Illinois won 38-35 against Northwestern last year - GAHHHHHHHHH - the Illini are 4-16, with two big losing streaks sandwiched around a bowl win and a win over Charleston Southern. What the Zook happened? What's different about the team that won that game than the one that's been on the field since?
Well, first of all, last year's team lost a ton of talent to the NFL. Secondly, the transition from one coaching staff to the other hasn't been all that smooth. What's really hurt the offense was Scheelhaase getting hurt early in the year and missing time. He then came back less than 100% for Big Ten play with roughly 15 practices and a few live snaps in the new offense.
Oh, and he's doing all of this behind an offensive line that makes the Chicago Bears offensive line look like it deserves Hall of Fame consideration. This leads to the offense being absolutely terrible and a defense that really isn't terrible being forced onto the field too often and wearing down as games go on.
This is apparently a rivalry, says Tim Beckman and a hat. On a scale of one to snakes/mongeese, how big of a rivalry do you consider NU-Illinois? (Follow-up: would you rather be a fan of a team that does kinda well but hasn't won a bowl game since 1949 or the one that's scorched-earth horrific but won a bowl last year? And what does winning a bowl feel like?)
I HARBOR SO MUCH HATE FOR NORTHWESTERN IN MY HEART THAT I DON'T KNOW WHERE I BEGIN AND WHERE NORTHWESTERN HATE ENDS. I AM JUST A BIG BALL OF PURPLE HATE.
Okay, no, that's not the case. I actually respect your program quite a bit, and you can't just make rivalries, even when they make sense. It has to happen on the field and our two schools are never playing for anything important when we meet. One of us is usually decent and the other terrible.
Though, seriously, quit with the Chicago's Big Ten Team crap. We all know that's a farce.
FOLLOW UP: I'd much rather root for the team that's been to a Sugar Bowl and a Rose Bowl since the inception of the BCS. Yes, we've had terrible years, but the success was fun. I much prefer that to a whole lot of bad followed by five years of ALMOST THERE. In this analogy the Illini are the White Sox and the Wildcats are the Cubs, and, well, I'm a White Sox fan.
And winning a bowl game feels pretty cool, I guess, even if it's against UCLA in a baseball stadium with an interim coaching staff. Though we did beat RG3 and Baylor the year before. If only we'd known how special that was then.
Some people want to fire Tim Beckman after a season. Does he deserve the axe? Is all this his fault?
No coach deserves the axe this quick. Not even Tim Beckman, who I am most decidedly not a fan of right now. I can't say it's all his fault because he has to work with the players he inherited, and the whole "Ron Zook left a ton of talent" narrative is a bit of a fallacy. Most of that talent left for the NFL and the Zooker's last two recruiting classes before he got fired left quite a bit to be desired.
That being said, Beckman is the face of the program. It's his ship. So whether he deserves all the blame, no, he doesn't, but he's going to get it.
Prediction for Saturday?
I'm feeling a 38-10 Northwestern win that won't be even that competitive. Can't wait til we score that touchdown in the closing seconds, though. That'll give you guys something to stew on until next season!