The Illinois Fighting Illini are 2-3, but those two wins came courtesy of a MAC and FCS team. They’ve been absolutely destroyed by every FBS team they’ve faced this season, even getting routed at home by a non power conference team in Louisiana Tech. In their three losses, the Illini have surrendered an average of 44 ppg.
Yesterday, Illinois, not Penn State looked like the team on sanctions with nothing to play for. The Nittany Lions didn’t gain many more yards than Illinois, but they didn’t make all the mistakes that the Illini did. PSU can’t go to a bowl, but looked like a bowl team. Illinois looks like 3-9, 4-8 at best. Considering that Illinois still has talent on the roster how did this happen?
Both starting safeties have been out, the starting quarterback and tailback have missed extensive time, and the team’s best defender, Jonathan Brown missed a lot of yesterday’s game. And that’s just the start of the injury report
Vic Koenning’s departure
The defensive coordinator is clearly missed. When you see how clueless Tim Banks looks now, it shows you how much Coach Vic meant during the two bowl win seasons. Yes, some of the talent left for the NFL, but there’s allegedly some pro talent still in Champaign; especially on D. But you wouldn’t believe it given how the supposed strength of the team is actually the weakness. The d couldn’t keep pace with Louisiana Tech, and was exceedingly over-matched versus Arizona State and PSU.
Beckman hire a mistake?
It’s too early to judge the Tim Beckman hire. Or is it? Not only is he getting coaching pantsed every week, attendance has taken a dip this season. Are fans making a statement by not showing up? Beckman’s regime is off to a very rough start, and the empty seats only make his seat that much warmer. So far, the Beckman hire looks so bad that Illini A.D. Mike Thomas has also got to be on the hot seat.
Skill position play
Nathan Scheelhaase has not been himself. He’s been hurt and the running element of his game is gone. The other QB, Reilly O’Toole, tore up a FCS team, but has struggled versus everyone else. He’s not ready. Ryan Lankford had established himself as a receiver, but there’s no all-stars in the receiving game after him. And the tailbacks, Young and Ferguson are obscure compared to recent stars Mikel Leshoure and Rashard Mendenehall. They’re obscure because they’re not that good.
Ron Zook had to go; that much is true. But who knew the alternative would be so horrible? The Illini don’t look like a Big Ten team right now, and that’s a shame because this is the year the league is wide open, and with sanctions against PSU and Ohio State, the division is there for the taking. Unfortunately, Illinois shows no signs of stepping up and doing so.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Chicago Tribune.com, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too