You will get nothing and like it, Orange-Man.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Big 10 Preview: Illinois!!

Someone Put The Eyes In Illini! MEEEEOOWWWWW!

The Fighting Illini hail from Champaign-Urbana (pick a city and stick with it, cocksuckers). Their campus has long been home to gentlemen of questionable ethical standards, and current football coach Ron Zook is no exception. He has spent the last off-season luring highly rated prospects to a team that is 1-15 in the Big 10 since 2005, which is clear and blatant evidence of lying, bribery, and possible instances of recruits’ grandmothers being held hostage by men wearing fake Indian headdresses. Nonetheless, the NCAA has decided to let Zook continue his felonious ways for at least one more season without reproach; the thinking must be that his current rate of success is worse than any sanctions the NCAA can impose. That seems fair.
WILL LEITCH says: col-lege foot-ball?

What You Should Know

Illinois is a basketball school, and as mentioned before, those teams are usually pretty fun to meet on the gridiron; nine times out of 10 they suck out loud. Since 2003, that’s been the case for the Whining Illini. The Zooker is back for his third season, and it should be his best yet. Granted, his winning percentage is, according to calculations, “negative eleventy thousand,” so it’s not as if he’s got much more room to drop. Well, unless he volunteers for Locks For Love, then gets busted jacking off in the warehouse.

Aside from the highly plausible confluence of Vidal Sassoon and man juice, the Illini have a slew of young blue-chippers around, including a top-rated wide receiver who joined the team in the spring (probably to save his aunt’s life). Zook is fortunate that the Illini faithful have thus far been more patient than his former employer—as if that’s hard to pull off—because his record thus far has been far worse than the 8-5 year that got him kicked out of Gainesville. Zook is, as a matter of fact, 4-19 in his two seasons at Illinois. 3-19 if you want to be an asshole and only count teams that are in the (ugh) “Bowl Subdivision.”
WILL LEITCH says: Gainesville... that's in Florida.

What You Should Fear

They have a defense. As a matter of fact, they were much stouter than the Hawkeyes on the defensive side of the ball; they gave up only 3.3 yards per rush to Iowa’s 3.6, and they held opposing QB’s to just 182 yards per game through the air. Central to the rush defense is all-Big 10 middle linebacker and THC favorite J Leman (right).

All of that is a bit misleading, of course; opponents spent a sufficient amount of time leading the Illini that they ran the ball 58% of the time; Illinois could stack the line and play for the run more often than not. Regardless, they also spent most of the time losing for the three years prior to 2006, and they were giving up about two full yards more per run then. So let’s not pretend they haven’t nutted up a lot.

Anyway, just about everybody is back on defense; leading the way are cornerback Vontae Davis and Leman. Juice Williams cannot possibly misfire on more than 60% of his passes again (right? um… right??), and he’s got some talent to give the ball to now. In other words, it seems like they can’t possibly suck as bad as they usually do. The degree to which they will improve still, of course, remains to be seen.

The offense looks like it should be good enough. Williams is a physically talented QB who spent much of the offseason working on his mechanics with famed quarterbacks coach, Blaze McHeed. McHeed quickly discovered that the Juice is actually left handed. This should help him in the upcoming season, but he needs to stop letting his mind wander on the field. That seems odd, doesn’t it? An Orange Juice that can’t concentrate.


WILL LEITCH says: Oh shit, a camera. All right, chin down and to the right, eyes up, work the bangs. We can do this, Leitch!

What You Can Probably Laugh At with Confidence

It is the Illini. There’s lots to laugh at. For one, Orange Juice doesn’t even have the silliest name on the team; that would belong either to the aforementioned Aurrelious Benn (SPOILER ALERT: Joaquin Phoenix suffocates him in Gladiator) or the Mullet King (again, right). Questionable parenting aside, there’s also that 2-30 conference record since 2003.

Most importantly, you should take great glee in the fact that their fan base universally hates Iowa. They despise us as a school, team, and fan base. Yeah. Think about it, Iowa fan; do you even care about Illinois? On the list of Iowa rivalries, there’s Iowa State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin dominating the top three; past them, Iowa fans usually care more about the Michigan and Ohio State games more than the rest of the Big Ten opponents. And there’s this team just four hours away that fucking hates our guts. It’s time to relish that fear, to feed on it, and to shove our own apathy back in their mouths.

So, our apologies, Illinois fans. Sorry that you still feel the need to whimper about our assistant coach busting your boy Lou Henson handing out free cars. Sorry that we get all the seriously hot girls from Chicago who spent more time looking good than earning their way into the U of I. Sorry that nobody cared enough about your shitty team to cultivate a rivalry before someone finally called Henson on his shit. Seriously, our bad on this one. And any time you guys want to stop clinging to our nuts, that’s fine.
WILL LEITCH says: We don't get why everyone mocks the bangs anyway. The Zooker recommended them highly. They smell great.

So, Can Iowa Beat Them?

The short answer? Of course Iowa can beat them. It’s Ron Zook vs. Kirk Ferentz. It’s in Kinnick. It’s not as if we’re talking about Michigan here. But it’s not all party favors and streamers here. First of all, as mentioned before, they have a defense. Second, Iowa only took last year’s game by a 24-7 margin; it’s not as if 18-point swings have never happened ever. Realistically, though, the 2008 tilt in Champaign looks much more threatening from the Hawkeyes’ perspective.

If Vegas were to put a spread on this game right now, it would probably look something like Iowa -13.5; for a game in Kinnick against a bottom feeder, even a 2-6 Iowa squad ought to win by two touchdowns. Depending on what both teams do in the first half of the season, that number could swing wildly, but it probably won’t. If it does move much, it’ll probably be in Iowa’s favor. If it dips below 10, Iowa’s season will be in the toilet and you may as well pick up a gambling habit to numb the pain. Once more for the hell of it, J Leman (right).
WILL LEITCH says: Hel-lo, sailor!

What They’ll Do the Rest of the Year

This is awfully tough to figure out; who knows how much the Illini are actually going to improve? Will they implode if Missouri takes the first game by a couple touchdowns or if they can’t get out of the Carrier Dome with a win? What if the Indiana faithful will the Hoosiers to a win in their Big 10 home opener? How Illinois starts the first four games will be crucial to how they finish the conference season. They could go 4-0, or they could go 1-3 (it’s relatively safe to assume that the Illini can take out Western Illinois).

Assuming they’re not world-beaters, they’ll probably be rolling into Iowa City with a 3-3 record, losing to Wisconsin, Penn State, and either Missouri or Syracuse; the Other Orange team won by a deceptively close 31-21 margin in Champaign last season, and they’re also a team on the rise. So once they leave Iowa City with another notch in the L column, life gets a bit better. They have dates with Michigan and An Ohio State University on deck, but the other three games are very winnable (Ball State, Northwestern, and a trip to Minnesota). 6-6 is a fair prediction, as is the subsequent massive over-reactionary contract extension that will keep Zook in the Big 10 for about another decade. This, Iowa fans, should thrill you beyond words.

What we can be sure that they’ll do this year is fill about 40% of their stadium, complain about Iowa, and wear way too much orange for someone who isn’t traipsing through a forest at 5 a.m. with a rifle on their shoulder.
WILL LEITCH says: Orange makes me look splotchy!

"We" would like to thank Mr. JHC for his invaluable help in this nuanced look at the Illinois football team in 2007.


Deacon said...

Who is Will Leitch? I don't want to google it. Is he the guy what dresses up like the injun?

JHC said...

He's the author of Catch and Life As a Loser, editor of, and unapologetic Illini fan.

Patrick said...

I am just so happy that there is now collective efforts for writing on this page. The Steve Hair Gel was good, but this is just as good (if not better), and all the time.

Run Up The Score! said...

Great googily moogily, I love me some J. Leman. Almost as much as M. Doughty and H. Waldman.

Also, if you want a little assist with the PSU preview, just let me know.

Bucketochicken said...

My necktie supports the troops more than his does.

JHC said...

:Patrick: I think you'll find this is much better than the Hair Gel since I'm writing here.

:RUTS: J is outstanding.
If I want some "facts" or "truths" I will come find you. Thanks, man.

:Bucketochicken: Let's not get into a patriotic pissing contest. Also, he has Betsy Ross shaved into his back, do you?

Bucketochicken said...

I asked for Betsy, but I got Bob. *shrug*

JLeman 1
Bucket 0

Barstoolio said...

Oopsie, you funny.