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Hoegher's 2014 Previews: LOLINOIS FIGHTING LOLINI

By the by, you may notice some discrepancies in the numbers if you're tracking these posts. I'm usually tinkering around with something and making small changes to my system and formulas. The latest change I've made is to factor in returning starter data for my season projections. For most teams, this isn't much of an effect, but Wisconsin (for example) gets a pretty heavy downgrade for their returning defensive starters being so few. They're now 15th in my projections, as opposed to 6th.

I wrote up most of this post before I made that change, so you won't see that reflected below, but you should notice that in the coming weeks.

NOTE: All of the numbers and figures that follow are based on my ratings system, which is derived from scoring data going back to 1930. For more explanation, see my primer here: [LINK]

Data gathered from the wonderful resources provided by Sports-Reference and James Howell.

PAST PERFORMANCES OF VARYING QUALITY

Illinois - Historical Overall Ratings

Illinois - Historical Offense & Defense

Illinois - Historical Win% & "Luck"

[brief statement on nothing in particular]

"BEST" and "WORST" (since 1930, 9953 total teams)

Rk Year Team Adj Rk Res Rk Conf Record Adj Off Yr Rk Adj Def Yr Rk Luck Yr Rk SOS Yr Rk N.C.
309 1951 Illinois 549 91 West 9-0-1 1.49 17 0.38 3 8% 26 0.35 25
516 1946 Illinois 654 396 West 8-2 1.94 11 0.48 20 11% 17 0.80 5
818 1953 Illinois 1103 463 B10 7-1-1 1.76 7 0.73 36 8% 18 0.42 14
1017 1950 Illinois 1316 642 West 7-2 0.98 68 0.30 3 9% 23 0.39 20
1088 1989 Illinois 1505 555 B10 10-2 1.14 34 0.53 8 12% 10 0.14 40

image via illinois.edu

1951 Illinois (Coach - Ray Eliot)

Conf Record Luck (wins) rk Adj Off rk Adj Def rk Adj Eff rk Adj Marg rk
West 9-0-1 +0.8 26 1.49 17 0.38 3 0.80 5 1.11 7
Total Teams Rating rk Opp-O rk Opp-D rk SOS rk Variance rk
117 1.15 4 1.09 51 0.76 14 0.35 25 0.96 113
H/V Opponent Record Opp Rk Off Rk Def Rk PF PA OT W/L W-Lk
~ BYE ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
~ BYE ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
H UCLA 5-3-1 21 40 13 27 13 W 83%
H Wisconsin 7-1-1 5 28 1 14 10 W 62%
V Syracuse 5-4 51 48 44 41 20 W 84%
V Washington 3-6-1 31 16 63 27 20 W 78%
V Indiana 2-7 72 59 78 21 0 W 95%
H Michigan 4-5 60 90 21 7 0 W 97%
H Iowa 2-5-2 73 33 104 40 13 W 98%
H OhioState 4-3-2 58 89 17 0 0 T 97%
V Northwestern 5-4 76 96 30 3 0 W 95%
~ BYE ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
~ BYE ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
~ BYE ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
~ BYE ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
~ BYE ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
N Stanford 9-2 33 34 50 40 7 W 85%

With the way my rating system is set up, teams are assumed to be roughly consistent in any particular year. Obviously, this is a simplification, and doesn't really allow for improvement or regression, but it gives a good baseline for comparing teams. For the most part, I think this works well. A team that has a crappy offense in Week 1 is probably going to continue to have a crappy offense in Week 10. Ditto for defensive performance.

So it's kind of fascinating to look at the seasonal breakdown for this Illinois team. The first few weeks were characterized by overwhelming offense and competent defense. Yet, the latter part of the season saw Illinois pitch four shut-outs and score just 7, 0, and 3 pts against Michigan, Ohio State, and Northwestern, respectively. I don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of the 1951 season, so I can't tell if this is due to injuries or returning players, but it's an odd thing to look at. Fortunately, it looks as if they were able to fix everything by January, crushing Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

Unfortunately, for how good the season was for Illinois, they still have that 0-0 tie against Ohio State. A tie (at home!) against a decidedly mediocre Buckeye team that almost certainly deprived them of winning the national title (whatever "Boand" is doesn't count). I don't know if a perfect season would've put them ahead of Tennessee, Michigan State, or Maryland (Tennessee had a loss, but the AP put their polls out prior to the bowls where they lost to Maryland), but this was in an era where the media still had a raging clue for Big Ten teams. See Illinois, this is why you can't have nice things.

Rk Year Team Adj Rk Res Rk Conf Record Adj Off Yr Rk Adj Def Yr Rk Luck Yr Rk SOS Yr Rk N.C.
8828 2003 Illinois 8487 9267 B10 1-11 0.72 99 1.22 95 -8% 96 0.23 19
9024 1978 Illinois 9166 8544 B10 1-8-2 0.46 139 1.09 86 4% 40 0.15 38
9324 1961 Illinois 9346 9180 B10 0-9 0.59 97 1.64 104 -4% 70 0.60 2
9397 1997 Illinois 9280 9520 B10 0-11 0.51 108 1.22 89 -8% 91 0.26 21
9850 1969 Illinois 9802 9856 B10 0-10 0.43 119 1.62 116 -9% 106 0.04 49

sad turtle, image via wikipedia.org

1969 Illinois (Coach - James Valek)

Conf Record Luck (wins) rk Adj Off rk Adj Def rk Adj Eff rk Adj Marg rk
B10 0-10 -0.9 106 0.43 119 1.62 116 0.21 121 -1.19 121
Total Teams Rating rk Opp-O rk Opp-D rk SOS rk Variance rk
123 -1.18 121 1.12 29 1.07 88 0.04 49 0.50 79
H/V Opponent Record Opp Rk Off Rk Def Rk PF PA OT W/L W-Lk
~ BYE ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
H WashingtonState 1-9 110 94 113 18 19 L 31%
N Missouri 9-2 17 8 31 6 37 L 1%
H IowaState 3-7 89 106 69 20 48 L 14%
H Northwestern 3-7 100 108 80 6 10 L 20%
V Indiana 4-6 81 61 100 20 41 L 3%
V OhioState 8-1 3 11 4 0 41 L 1%
H Purdue 8-2 33 6 88 22 49 L 1%
H Michigan 8-3 18 27 7 0 57 L 1%
V Wisconsin 3-7 104 68 114 14 55 L 11%
H Iowa 5-5 79 62 94 0 40 L 9%

Consistency is a peculiar thing. It's a characteristic that is generally held in good regard and as something we all aspire to. In college football, we want our teams to consistently win, to be consistently good, and give us consistent performances. One of the most frustrating things as a fan is to cheer for a team that can deliver an A+ performance one week and fall on their face the next. We naturally hold our teams to certain standards and get upset if they fall egregiously short of those standards.

However, you don't want to be too consistent (well, unless you're going 13-0 every year). We want our teams to meet our expectations, but we want to hold on to the hope that they can exceed those expectations. A team that fails to deviate at all from a pattern is maddening in it's own right. Witness PeLLLLini, the six years of 9-3 torment that Earle Bruce brought Ohio State, the first two decades of Tom Osborne's tenure, etc.

This is a fairly roundabout way for me to wonder about the Illini mindset in the 1969 season. The team was bad to begin with, granted, so maybe this was the least of their concerns. But there was a regular pattern to their offensive scoring:

EVEN WEEKS: Score ~20 pts

ODD WEEKS: Score 6 pts or less

Up & down, up & down, etc. in a never-ending cycle of offensive futility. Variety is good, learn to spice it up a bit!

We'll also take this chance to point out that Illinois lost at home to a Washington State team that otherwise went winless. This was James Valek's 3rd season at Illinois and somehow he returned to coach one more year.

FUTURE PROJECTIONS OF SUSPECT VALIDITY

Illinois Proj Rk - 68 (out of 129)

Off Ret St - 6 (0 QB)

Def Ret St - 10

Conf Prj Rec Conf Adj Off rk Adj Def rk SOS rk C-SOS rk
B10 5-7 3-5 0.98 75 0.95 60 0.09 53 0.29 43
Gm Wk Date H/V Opponent Prj Rk Prj Off Prj Def W-Lk
1 1 2014-08-30 H YoungstownState 126 ~ ~ 99%
2 2 2014-09-06 H WesternKentucky 92 76 104 79%
3 3 2014-09-13 V Washington 31 29 31 13%
4 4 2014-09-20 H TexasState 119 116 116 95%
5 5 2014-09-27 V Nebraska 39 36 38 17%
6 6 2014-10-04 H Purdue 101 101 98 83%
7 7 2014-10-11 V Wisconsin 12 16 20 5%
8 9 2014-10-25 H Minnesota 73 99 44 64%
9 10 2014-11-01 V OhioState 5 8 16 2%
10 12 2014-11-15 H Iowa 41 61 22 32%
11 13 2014-11-22 H PennState 32 57 11 25%
12 14 2014-11-29 V Northwestern 51 55 51 27%

Illinois 2014 Profile (old projections)

Hoegher's Biased Perspective

First, a note that my update projections have Illinois pretty much the same overall (#68 in the nation), but worse on offense and better on defense (#75, #60). There's even supposed to be a real chance of getting to a bowl game this year! WOOOOOOO. (EDIT: I've updated my tables here)

I'm conflicted on Tim Beckman. On the one hand, his Toledo teams improved dramatically every year he was in charge, and Illinois was definitely improved this year. He did a good job of cleaning up the offense after an abysmal first year, which deserves commendation (I don't see Purdue enjoying the same resurgence, for example). On the other hand, he seems like he's over his head a bit, and he's only enjoyed a single Big Ten win in two years of coaching. Winning over Purdue shouldn't really be something that you take pride in, either.

There's also the Northwestern thing. Look, I think Pat Fitzgerald is a great coach and the Northwestern program as a whole has done wonders to make themselves a legitimate team to be reckoned with. They are still, as our friends at BHGP say, justNorthwestern. If you are the flagship university for a Midwestern state, you should not be comparing yourselves to Northwestern. The fact that Illinois is spending money on an "OUR STATE, OUR TEAM" and that Tim Beckman is referring to Northwestern as "that team up north" says volumes. Even SOP is laughing at him for that.

Your rival defines you, which is why Michigan and Ohio State have their weird little bromance, why Michigan State can't not mention Michigan in every other sentence, and (relevant) why Iowa remains defiantly dismissive of Northwestern despite losing the vast majority of recent match-ups. If Illinois is defining Northwestern as their rival (and also failing to assert their supremacy in that rivalry), they are pretty much defining themselves as a team that's comfortable with trying to make a bowl each year. Like Purdue's disengagement from Danny Hope, I assumed that Ron Zook got fired because Illinois has higher goals.

I don't think Tim Beckman can bring Illinois to those goals. So let's start speculating on the next coaching hire! My vote is Mario Cristobal (AND THE CYCLE IS COMPLETE).

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