Call Me Crazy, But… November 9, 2010
I think we can win our next 10 football games.
Yes, the University of Illinois Fighting Illini. The football team. A 10 game winning streak.
No, it’s not the Michigan loss talking. These are not the delusional rantings of a desperate blogger whose soul was crushed 72 hours ago. Well, it is that, but I’m totally and completely serious. I want to win our next 10. Yes, we’ll likely go 7-3, possibly win 8 of 10, and maybe even go 9-1. But that’s not good enough today. I want to set the bar higher. I want to Win10.
Who are our opponents, you ask?
Northwestern (Wrigley Field)
at Fresno State
South Dakota State
At first blush, I’ll be very disappointed if we’re not 7-3 in those 10 games. I think we’ll be favored in all but 2 of them. Actually, tossing out the unknown bowl opponent, there’s a good chance we’re favored in the other 9 games. The Northwestern game at Wrigley will be close to a pick ‘em (if we beat Minnesota handily and they lose to Iowa, I think we’ll be favored by 3 or 4), but the other 8 games there will all be advantage-Illini. I’m even more sure of this now. We’re going to win our next 10 games.
The model for this? The 2008 Iowa Hawkeyes (I know – yuck). Two years ago today, Iowa sat at 5-4 on the season. They were coming off a gut-punch loss in Champaign on a 46 yard field goal by Matt Eller, dropping them to 2-3 in the Big Ten. Over their previous 45 games, they were a disappointing 23-22, and the message boards were buzzing with possible Kirk Ferentz replacements.
And then they won 13 straight games.
This year, Illinois sits at 5-4 on the season (3-3 in the Big Ten). We’re coming off a gut-punch loss in Ann Arbor where we lost in triple overtime. You know the rest. Our young quarterback grows up, we surprise an SEC team in a bowl game, and we charge into 2011 with 17 returning starters and a (finally) manageable non-conference schedule. Roll through our first five games at home, dominate Indiana on the road, and return to Champaign ranked, already bowl eligible, and fully prepared to face the top-10 Buckeyes on national TV. You can just see it, can’t you?
You cant? OK, let me help. First, only Martez Wilson declares for the draft. Finished with school and ready to wow ‘em at the combine, Martez moves on while Corey Liuget and Mikel Leshoure, staring at deep draft classes at their positions and looming lockout fears, return to Champaign.
The offense loses Ryan Palmer (replaced by Corey Lewis), Randall Hunt (replaced by Jack Cornell), Eddie McGee (replaced by Spencer Harris) and Jarred Fayson (replaced by Darius Millines). With everyone else a year older and a year wiser (and with a year in the Petrino system), the offense takes a large step forward.
The defense loses Clay Nurse (replaced by Whitney Mercilus), Martez Wilson (replaced by Jonathan Brown), Nate Bussey (replaced by Trulon Henry while Supo Sanni takes over at safety) and Travon Bellamy (who is really a co-starter with Terry Hawthorne at this point).
So we lose 8 regulars. The 8 will be replaced by 6 players in the current rotation (Millines, Harris, Cornell, Mercilus, Brown, and Hawthorne), plus two 2010 starters who missed the entire season (Sanni and Lewis). It may take some time to find new backups for the rotation, but that’s about as good as it gets in college football, reloading-wise. Replacing Anthony Santella will probably be our toughest task in the offseason.
Yes, if we lose the threesome of Martez Wilson, Corey Liuget, and Mikel Leshoure, my Win10 demands take a huge hit. So it’s probably a really, really good thing that we start next year with Arkansas State and South Dakota State instead of Missouri and Cincinnati. Adjust to the new rotations in those two games, win a closer-than-expected battle with Arizona State, get revenge on Western Michigan… you get the picture. I don’t want to just win out this season. I want to win 10 straight.
Three disclaimers, and then I’m done.
1) I fully realize that I’m basically saying that we’ll lose to Ohio State next year. Why not Win11? Because Ohio State is really good. Our other 10 opponents are not.
2) No, I’m not concerned that I’m “looking past Minnesota” or that I should “take it one game at a time”. I’m a blogger. I can look past as many games as I want. And every game I’m looking past looks like a win.
3) I fully realize that this is college football, and crazy things happen, and we’ll have a wild turnover day at the same time as Steven Threet has his best game ever for Arizona State and we’ll lose by 4 at home in a game we should win. So expecting 10 wins in a row is a crazy proposition. It takes a lot of luck. I get that. But my single purpose in life is take the football team of Red Grange and Dick Butkus and move the needle towards “solid, vibrant Big Ten program”. The next step in that, as I see it, is to go on a 10 game winning streak.
Win10. My new battle cry. I’m gonna start a Twitter hashtag and everything. Expect lots of “#Feed5 to #Win10″ on Twitter for the next 11 months.
Because we’re totally winning our next 10 games.
Editor’s Note: There will be no Check The Tape mini-podcast this week. Because I’m not watching that tape. Ever.