SOC – Indiana October 26, 2012
It’s strange trying to get back into the Friday night Stream Of Consciousness groove after a bye week. Well, I should say, after a bye week after we started 2-5. After a bye week after we started 2-5 losing five games by 17 points or more. After a bye week after we started 2-5 losing five games by 17 points or more with the last football we watched being negative two yards in the second half against Michigan’s second string defense.
It’s strange. May is always so depressing. Rantoul led to FOOTBALL led to more football led right into basketball and then March Madness followed by spring football. And then, after the spring game, a 100-day dead period. It feels like the season will never arrive. I can hardly wait until I can sit down here and type out the first SOC.
And now, seven weeks into the season, it feels like not having a game last Saturday was better than having a game. Kind of like crossing a busy street and finally making it to the median. It was exciting when I stepped off the curb, but then it was immediately terrifying. This median is great, though. No danger, nothing to worry about. The only bad part is that now we have to step out into traffic again. Worst game of Frogger EVER.
2-5. Five absolute blowout losses. I’m not really sure how the season could have started worse. Which reminds me – I looked back at the ESPN Big Ten Blog “Best Case, Worst Case” preseason post this week. Not sure why. Guess I wanted to see what Brian and Adam thought the worst case would be for this season.
Their best case scenario for this season had us beating Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game and going on to the Rose Bowl (yes, really). Worst case said this:
They fired Ron Zook for this? Beckman finds that he’s not in Toledo anymore, as his transition to the Big Ten is a rough one. While the defense is solid, it misses Whitney Mercilus and Vic Koenning more than anyone realized. The spread system is an odd fit for a team that lacks many playmakers at receiver or running back, and neither Scheelhaase nor Reilly O’Toole is fully able to master it in a seesaw quarterback competition. Much like the second half of last year, Illinois simply can’t score, and its special-teams play hasn’t improved much.
The Beckman era gets off to a shaky start when Western Michigan — which played a close game in Champaign a year ago — springs the upset in the opener. The Illini are 0-2 after a loss at Arizona State. They rebound to win the next two but are crushed at home by a Penn State team that’s angry about all those Illini assistants sniffing around State College this summer. That begins a spiral of losing, as the next two games are blowouts on the road at Wisconsin and Michigan. Illinois beats Indiana but falls at Ohio State, drops another home game to Purdue and ends the year getting pushed around by resurgent Northwestern. The Wildcats somehow win the Big Ten and prompt Chicago to dye the river purple. Meanwhile, the Illini sit at home after a 4-8 season, wondering what the future holds.
Ouch, baby. Ouch. At this point I’d take 4-8. I’m guessing you would, too.
OK, this is getting depressing. Let’s talk Indiana game.
Yes, they’re improved. NERDstats have them #6 nationally in offensive efficiency. On the surface this looks like loss #6. But let’s dig deeper before I chalk this one up as a loss.
Our first three Big Ten opponents are a combined 10-0 in the conference. Our next three home opponents are a combined 0-9 in the Big Ten. So our schedule is going to improve.
Navy was shut out at home by San Jose State. Then, last week, they beat Indiana 31-30. Ready to wake up, offense? This might be your chance.
Indiana is the only team in the country that hasn’t lost a fumble yet. Seven games, four fumbles, they recovered them all. The 1972 Miami Dolphins of turnovers are getting ready to toast each other. Nobody goes eight full games without losing a fumble. Their luck is going to run out soon. Maybe to the tune of a four fumble game.
Jonathan Brown is getting close to 100%. Terry Hawthorne will return. Nathan Scheelhaase has been cleared to play. Hugh Thornton should be back close to 100%. This will be as healthy as we’ve been since the opener.
Indiana has won six Big Ten road games since 1995. 17+ seasons, six road wins. 6-63 on the road in conference over that span.
All of this means one thing: we pretty much have to win tomorrow. Yes, IU’s offense is greatly improved. Just like Arizona State, if they get on a roll early, this could get out of hand quickly.
But it’s Indiana. At home. And their defense is terrible. And we’re at home. Against Indiana. Who is playing on the road in the Big Ten. And we’re coming off a bye and desperately need the win. Over Indiana. At home.
Illinois 28, Indiana 24