Nobody Does Trainwreck Like Illinois Football November 25, 2012
Nobody. Seriously, no team in college football does this more that Illinois. I’ll just describe the last 20 years:
After an 0-3 start in 1993, we went on a little roll. 5-3 in the Big Ten in ’93 followed by Liberty Bowl in ’94. But the fall started in 1995, continued in ’96, and bottomed out in 1997 at the tail end of an 18 game losing streak. We started a long climb back in 1998 by rushing the field after a Middle Tennessee State win (those goal posts would not. come. down.), shocked everyone with a solid season and a bowl win in 1999, were ranked going into the Michigan game in 2000, and then three bad fumble calls (pre-replay) cost us the Michigan game (and yes, for you young kids, this was an actual “the call cost us the game” thing – Michigan’s tailback fumbled with under 2:00 to go and Michigan with no timeouts. If it was correctly called a fumble, we could have taken a knee.)
That game just killed our momentum, and we struggled to 5-6. But then 2001 was amazing. 10-1, Big Ten Champions, BCS Bowl, we’re on top of the world. And then 5-7 followed by 1-11 the next two seasons and we’re right back in the basement. And we’d stay there a while. A 2-30-in-the-Big-Ten-over-four-seasons while. But then, in the most Illinois way possible, when we returned, we returned to the top. 9-3 in 2007, knocking off #1 Ohio State in the process, and a Rose Bowl. With all these Zook recruits, we’re back, baby! And then 5-7 followed by 3-9. Why do we always do this? But Zook wasn’t done. Driven by a Vic Koenning defense, we finished 7-6 in 2010 and 2011, with bowl wins each season (including holding RGIII and Baylor to 14 meaningless 4th quarter points in a 38-14 drubbing). OK, maybe we’re not going to do the yoyo thing any more, and we can play in Mediocrity Land for a while. Nope. Tim Beckman takes over, and we go 2-10. Our Big Ten losing streak has reached 14 games, and with the Big Ten schedule opening with Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State next year, it will reach 18 before we even blink.
Are you kiddin’ me? How is this possible?
Wait, there’s more: There have been eight winless-in-the-Big-Ten seasons the last 16 years – WE OWN FOUR OF THE EIGHT. No other team even has two. Not even Indiana. Illinois 1997, Northwestern 1998, Iowa 1999, Illinois 2003, Illinois 2005, Indiana 2011, Illinois 2012. Are you kiddin’ me?
But, of course, there’s a flipside. There have only been 27 college football programs with two or more BCS bowl appearances – and we’re one of them. Teams that only have one BCS bowl appearance: UCLA, Texas A&M, Pitt, K-State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Arkansas, Washington, and Oklahoma State. Team that has two: Illinois.
THAT’S what is so maddening. If this was just a bad football program like Indiana or New Mexico, it would almost be easier to stomach. But just this new century we’ve gone BCS -> 2-30 -> BCS -> 3-9 -> back-to-back bowls -> 14 game B1G losing streak. Who does that?
+ There’s not much to break down from this game. It’s too painful. Northwestern is headed to a January bowl while we’re 2-10 at the same time as Notre Dame is headed to the title game. Michigan has made inroads into Chicago recruiting again, and combined with Notre Dame, will shut us out for years. Our schedule next year has games against #25 Washington and 8-3 Cincy, a parting gift left by our old AD who HONESTLY looked at that roller coaster above and thought that scheduling the MOST DIFFICULT NON CONFERENCE SCHEDULE IN ALL OF DIVISION I FOOTBALL THE LAST 12 SEASONS was the way to go.
You know what? No game breakdown this week. Can’t do it. Too hard. We just had our third train derailment in the last 15 years, the cars are scattered everywhere, and our old athletic director would still insist that the tracks are fine. It will be years before the new AD can fix the tracks and find a manageable schedule for this train.
But now the new conductor he hired doesn’t appear to have a clue.