Debating Myself, Part I August 1, 2012
Camp Rantoul starts in five days. I’ve already started laying out my outfits. It’s the absolute best time of the year, and I can hardly sleep as I count down the days.
The arrival of Camp Rantoul means one thing: the arrival of August Syndrome. If you’ve read this blog for long, you know about August Syndrome: every fan of every team reads August practice reports and firmly believes a 9-3 season is about to unfold. Last August, somewhere in Terre Haute, two Indiana fans sat around discussing some quote from some returning starter saying “things are just different with this coaching staff – this whole team seems to click with them”. They then discussed if 7-5 and the Insight Bowl was possible, and they quickly found seven wins on the schedule. Maybe eight!
They finished 1-11.
Every year, from now until expansion, Big Ten teams will finish a combined 48-48 in conference. And every August, when combining the proposed win totals from fans of all 12 teams, fans will expect something like 59-37. August Syndrome. It’s not just for the NFL anymore.
Given that it’s August 1st, I have decided to launch into this month with the most negative post I’ve ever written. But I promise to follow up on Thursday with some Kool-Aid. I’ll be my own high school debate team. Today: Why Illinois Football Will Go 3-9 This Fall. Tomorrow – Why Illinois Football Will Go 9-3 This Fall. Point, counterpoint. Starting with an August Syndrome vaccination: why this season will be full of FAIL.
Eight Reasons Why Illinois Football Will Go 3-9 This Fall
1) 7, 14, 7, 14, 17, 7, 20.
Those are the point totals from our offense the last seven games last season. Seven games, 86 points. We scored 79 points against Indiana and Northwestern… and then 86 in our next seven games. We finished 85th nationally in total offense, which was very close to the worst Illini offense in 15 years (I believe the 2003 offense was 87th nationally, just barely edging out 2011). I can’t see any way someone could look at that futility and expect anything other than a 3-and-out-fest all of next season.
Wait – I just remembered that Terry Hawthorne scored in the KFHB on a pick-6. That means the offense only scored 79 points in the final seven games. 79 points against IU and the Fitzees, 79 points in the next seven games.
2) New schemes are always an adjustment.
Indiana finished 5-7 in 2010 and fired Bill Lynch. They convinced the Oklahoma offensive coordinator to come to Bloomington, he assembled an impressive coaching staff, and… they finished 1-11. Partly because of a young team, but also partly because new schemes take time. Look at Michigan under RichRod, switching from a pro-set to a spread and looking miserably lost their first year.
We have a brand new offensive scheme and a similar (but certainly not the same) defensive scheme. It might be November 1 until the players are comfortable.
3) Neither Offensive Coordinator has ever called a play.
They’re proving they can recruit. But can they coach?
We shall see. Gonzo will call the plays, and with all of that experience along side Urban Meyer in Bowling Green and Utah and Florida, he might do a fine job. But he also might take a while before he’s comfortable calling that naked bootleg on third and 2.
And it’s also worth noting the Meyer passed him over for the offensive coordinator job at Florida, giving the job to Steve Addazio instead. Was there a reason for this slight? It’s cause for concern.
Western Michigan will win the MAC. Louisiana Tech will win the WAC. Night games in Arizona never go well for us (Mark Hoekstra’s 5 interceptions, anyone?). Penn State wants to punish Tim Beckman. First two Big Ten road games are Wisconsin and Michigan. Yeah, I can see us starting 1-6, too.
No, really. Besides our FCS gimme game, Arizona State might be our easiest non-conference game, but that’s on the road at night in Arizona (*flashes back to Fresno State loss*). Say Alex Carder throws for 401 yards and beats us in the opener, and then we lose at Arizona State the following week. You’re expecting a 1-6 start at that point, right?
5) NFL players are gone.
Whitney the Mercilus, Tavon Wilson, Corey Liuget, Martez Wilson. The heart and soul of the last two Illini defenses, all off to the NFL. Plus, we graduated players like Ian Thomas and Trulon Henry. This defense has a lot returning, but it also has a lot of holes to fill.
And I saw on Twitter that Jack Cornell is running with the first string at Ravens training camp. If our offensive line struggled last year, and we lost two guys who might start in the NFL this fall, um, just how bad is our line going to be?
6) Did you WATCH the Minnesota game?
Here, go watch these highlights. I will only take a minute.
It’s all rushing back, isn’t it? A Minnesota defense that was 101st nationally in rushing defense and 113th in Pass Efficiency Defense held us to 7 points and 160 total yards. I know we were on the tail end of a long losing streak, and the coach was about to get fired, and an implosion like that can lead to a result like that. But still – Western Michigan and Louisiana Tech were significantly better than Minnesota last year. And we’re expecting to breeze through both and head into the Penn State game 4-0?
I often wonder where our expectations would be had Terry Hawthorne not jumped a route for a pick-6 and turned around the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. We lose 14-13, finish 6-7 by losing to 6-7 UCLA (our seventh loss in a row), and suddenly the beginning of the Beckman era looks completely different, doesn’t it?
7) Vic Koenning is in North Carolina.
Remember that feeling you had when you heard it was finalized? Vic Koenning had accepted the North Carolina Defensive Coordinator job and would not be joining Tim Beckman in Champaign. Remember thinking we just lost our best defensive coordinator since Denny Marcin/Lou Tepper?
Well, where did that feeling go? Why are we all now saying things like “the defense will be solid – it’s on the offense to take us to another bowl game”. What if the defensive success was 50% Vic Koenning brilliant play calling? What if Tim Banks can’t do the same? What if the defense takes a significant step back?
8) We’re Illinois Football, and we can’t be trusted.
We’re Illinois Football, and we can’t be trusted.