Why 10-2? Here’s why 10-2… June 1, 2009
1) Jeff Cumberland is HUGE. (Benefit #23 of only having 7 readers: Blatantly stealing funny photoshopped pics from other Illinois websites).
2) My prediction is based 40% on the players on our football team and 60% on the schedule/strength of opponents/location of games.
Last year our FCS opponents finished 82-50 on the year (a staggering statistic). Compare that to, say, Northwestern, whose opponents were 61-71. I’m guessing that with Iowa and Wisconsin off the schedule and Purdue and MSU on, plus a guess that Mizzou, Cincy, and Fresno will all be significantly worse than they were last year, our opponents’ record should be closer to .500 or so. On top of that, our Big 10 road games are at Columbus, W. Lafayette, Minneapolis, and Bloomington. I think we’re favored in 3 of those 4 games.
Also factor in intangibles (8 of our 12 opponents have a rookie QB, Penn State and Missouri only return single digit starters, we’re overdue for a Minnesota-like lucky turnover splurge, we have a 4-year starter at QB, etc.) and I’m thinkin’ 7 or 8 wins before I even put any names on the jerseys.
3) As to the strength of our defense, yes, it is precarious. Tell me that Josh Brent is out for the first four games and Donsay chooses not to play, and I’m scared. But I think it’s much more likely that they are both on the field in the first quarter against Mizzou, with Donsay picking off a pass after Brent hurries Gabbo.
Yes, we allowed 350 yards per game last year. But we allowed 376 yards per game in 2007, and everyone thinks of that as a pretty solid defense. Why? Turnovers. We were 89th in turnover margin last year (a combination of interceptions thrown, which we’ve covered today, and interceptions made, which we were ranked 113th). Why did Iowa rank 4th in interceptions made last year? Besides a little luck, it was mostly King and Kroul charging up the middle and destroying any semblance of a pocket. Why do I think we’ll more than double our INT’s this year? Brent and Liuget charging up the middle, destroying any semblance of a pocket.
Bottom line: We were 19th in total offense yet 40th in scoring offense (turn. overs.) And we were 56th in total defense, yet 67th in scoring defense. (lack of turn. overs.) I think both of those scoring numbers flip to the other side of the yards numbers, and we win 10 games.