I hope you're hungry everyone....it's time for the triumphant return of OTE's Potlucks.
For those of you who are new around here (looking over at you, Terrapins and Scarlet Knights....wait, seriously? Those are your mascots? You almost make "Hoosiers" look normal), the Potluck is where I throw out four questions to the talented writing staff here at OTE, and they answer them. During team preview weeks, these are all related to the "team of the week."
Oh, and did I mention that each question includes a link to an actual recipe? Yep. That's how we roll in B1G country....slightly slowly, with way too much food in our stomach.
This week's team is
that barely accredited university downstate that should be the first in line to be demoted to the MAC Illinois. But since the Illini were terrible, and Tim Beckman (a.k.a. Ted Glover's "Best Coaching Hire in 2012 not named Urban Meyer") requires players who are late or miss a team meeting to eat porridge at the training table, we only have different recipes for porridge in this week's Potluck. Don't blame me....blame the atrocity that was the 2012 Illini football team. Real recipes are for closers.
So read along as we pinpoint the low point of the 2012 Illini season, look at the Illini's new MAC-attack offense, compare Nathan Scheelhaase to Adam Weber, and create a new unit of measurement for embarrassment....
It's called COACHING, Tim.....not POACHING.
1. Abalone and Rice Porridge: We can't begin to talk about the Illini in 2013 without discussing the train that went off the tracks into a pile of burning tires which inspired a couple performance artists to create a stage show involving their own feces that was the 2012 Illini. The 2012 Illini had 2 wins (over Western Michigan, which was coached by the Illini's new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, and over a school called Charleston Southern, presumably to distinguish it from....what? Some Charleston in the North that we all were thinking about instead?). They had more players drafted into the NFL (4) than they had wins (2). As Robert from A Lion Eye wrote on Monday, the 2012 Illini were 119th out of 120 FBS teams in total offensive yards, and they had 25 punt return yards TOTAL last year....which somehow improved by one yard upon their 2011 output. In summary, they fired Ron Zook, and GOT WORSE. Was 2012 Illinois the worst performance you can remember in B1G history? What do you think was the low point for the 2012 Illini?
Ted Glover: For me it was two things. Off the field, it was Beckman's performance at B1G Media Days, where he denied trying to recruit Penn State players, when he had members of his coaching staff essentially waiting to talk to them as they walked out of the football facility. It was just buffoonish on so many levels, and I thought maybe he might be in over his head. On the field, that blowout loss at home to Louisiana Tech was a sign that he really was, and it started a nine game losing streak to end the year. Only one of those games was Illinois remotely competitive in, and the average score in that losing streak was 37-13. That's...that's bad.
MNWildcat: Let us not forget the All-Time WORST Big Ten Team Ever (Since 1995) Challenge (SHAMELESS LINK) and the lolz that were the 2007 Gophers under Brother Tim #$@%! Brewster. Then again, I've just played the two off on What-If Sports, and the 2007 Gophers went 5-for-5 in beating the 2012 Illini. As for the low point for the 2012 Illini, it came against Northwestern. Not to be all "Northwestern" on you all, but when the other team, in a rivalry game, starts putting in a punt protector as running back and scores a safety on you, all after your coach gets trucked by a referee, that's a low point.
Aaron Yorke: As far as offensive futility goes, the 2012 Illini remind me of the 2004 Penn State team that went 4-7 despite not one opponent scoring more than 21 points against it. One fun memory of that year is the Yom Kippur game, in which Jewish Wisconsin fullback Matt Bernstein ran for 123 yards against the Lions even though he needed to be hooked up to an IV in between series because he had fasted all day. Penn State lost Zack Mills and Michael Robinson to injury during the game, and third-string QB Chris Ganter was 6-for-23. There's also the 6-4 home loss to Iowa in which PSU's final two points came on an intentionally safety by the Hawkeyes.
So, yeah, this Illinois season was pretty rotten, but it's not the worst ever in terms of offense. The low point of the season for the Illini had to be losing to Indiana at home. That's a game that was marked up as a win when the season began, but as the results started pouring in, it became increasingly apparent that Illinois was going to lose the game.
GoAUpher: Yes. This is the worst B1G team in living memory. Way worse than that 1-11 Tim Brewster squad from 2007. No one even remembers those guys. In fact, I think that 2007 never happened. All a mirage. Nothing to see here so move on.
The low point for the Illini had to be getting smoked by Northwestern to end the year. Especially since the game didn't start out badly. But those last 3 quarters? Woof...
Jesse Collins: I don't know a ton about horrific Big Ten teams, but I'm guessing that before 1995, Northwestern threw a few gems up there that might make it into the discussion. Since I do not feel like looking up stats for that, though, let's look at the last decade - which is closer to anything we might remember. Since 2003, there have been five teams to go winless in B1G play which really should be the line of demarcation of awful. We will concede 2007 Minnesota because they did beat a decent Miami (OH) team and they averaged above 26 points per game that season. It's just that their defense was pretty terrible and allowed a shade under 37 points. Also, let's rule out the two OOC win teams which eliminates 2012 Illinois and 2005 Illinois.
So now we're head to head between 2003 Illinois with a 1-11 record, an average of 16 points per loss, one win over a FCS team that went .500 on the season, and 2011 Indiana who had one win over a decent FCS team and also lost by about 16 points per game. I don't know enough to choose one over the other. Bottom line? Illinois showed up on this list three times, so that's not such a good thing.
Low point, by the way, has got to be Northwestern because it was the devastation of losing to a faux rival, your coach made into a bigger mockery, and it was a blowout with little hope on the horizon.
Baba O'Really: You don't have to look very hard for a season to match 2012 Illinois for incompetence. In 2011, Indiana managed to go 1-11, with their only win over FCS South Carolina State. Even in that game, the Hoosiers managed to set a team record for penalties in a game with 19. The low point for the Illini was obviously when Beckman got ran over by a ref in the LOL trophy game.
MSULaxer27: I'm not being snarky, but I'm really unsure how to answer these questions. How can you find a silver lining in a season this abysmal? A 2-10 team with a victory over an FCS school is like a 80's American diesel car with four bald tires, a bad transmission, and a open can of tuna fish hidden under the back seat...it probably can't get you where you want to go and you just can't seem to shake the stench that wafts up all around it. I wouldn't say this was the worst performance that I can remember in the B1G only because A) Indiana plays football in the B1G and B) Illinois went 2-30 in the B1G from 2003-2006. Low Point? I don't know. Losing at home to LA tech by four touchdowns? Losing on the road to NU by 36? Losing to said Indiana by 14 points at home? Having an average margin of defeat of 25 points (37.8 pa/13.2 pf)? Keeping with the car analogy...crush this baby and forget you ever owned it.
Graham Filler: There are just so many choices. Losing to Indiana? 4 touchdown beatdown to LaTech? Shutout versus Michigan in a game that showed a completely lost and incompetent Illini? Getting crushed in embarrassing fashion to rival Northwestern?
But I am going to go with the Michigan loss here. 134 total yards, the QB was knocked out early, the game was never really in doubt...And it was midseason, which meant that this team had plenty of toothless weeks ahead of them. Said one Illini: "It's embarrassing," Illinois center Graham Pocic said. "We can't put it all together."
2. Butternut Squash Porridge: One candidate for the 2012 Hall of Shame for the Illini was Beckman's decision to have two offensive coordinators, with one calling plays on 1st and 2nd down and the other calling 3rd down plays. Yes, that really happened. Fortunately, Beckman seemed to realize the error of his ways/was dressed down by his athletic director for his colossal stupidity, and jettisoned the play-calling-by-committee approach for Bill Cubit, an experienced offensive mind from the MAC. For those that watched a lot of MAC games last year, do you like this move for the Illini? Where does Bill Cubit start in fixing the Illini's inept offense? And what would constitute sufficient improvement on the offensive side of the ball to save Beckman's job (which, from some reports, is in jeopardy)?
Ted Glover: Yeah, it's a solid move. If nothing else, you have one guy running the offense, which cuts down on confusion and keeps the quarterback and the OC on the same page. Cubit's a solid hire, but really, you shouldn't trust me when it comes to my opinion on this. I thought Beckman was a good hire when it was announced. Sooooooooooo....yeah.
MNWildcat: Bill Cubit starts by playing to Nathan Scheelhaase's strengths while transitioning in Beckman's desired spread. In the dual-coordinator fiasco, it seemed like Scheelhaase was struggling to throw the ball to a bevy of underperforming receivers. With RB Donovan Young, Beckman and Cubit should emphasize a spread rushing attack that still pounds the ball between the tackles occasionally. Unless Riley O'Toole is really ready to perform, tailor the playbook to your dynamic playmakers.
Aaron Yorke: I don't watch a ton of MACtion, but I watch enough to know that the league is known for its spread out, offense-oriented games. Even in a bad season last year, Cubit's Western Michigan team scored a bunch of points, had two quarterbacks combine for 3,477 passing yards, and had two halfbacks average more than five yards per carry. Considering the shape of the Illini offensive line, a MAC-style offense seems preferable to three yards and a cloud of dust. Cubit could improve the offense by helping out the line as much as possible. Put them in advantageous situations and let the backs and receivers go to work with screens and quick, high-percentage throws that can also build confidence in Scheelhaase.
I don't believe in firing coaches before they can even coach the players they recruited. As long as Scheelhaase shows some improvement and the team wins a conference game, I think Beckman should be safe.
GoAUpher: Any move that a) results in a single coordinator and b) isn't last year's setup is automatically a win. Where will Cubit start? I have no idea, perhaps by just setting fire to the whole playbook and starting from scratch. Seriously though, without being an expert on Illinois football I'm betting he focuses on improving the offensive line and QB play. The big fellas clearly weren't getting it done (e.g. 97th in rushing offense, 111th in sacks allowed, etc) and I don't think we need to relive the QB play.
What level of offense save's Timmy's job? Whatever amount gets the team to at least 3 wins (assuming the rumors are true). For my part, I'm glad to see Beckman take over the role of ineptness formerly occupied by Brew and I'm all in favor of the team improving just enough to let him keep his job for another season.
Jesse Collins: I did not watch much MACtion last year, but Cubit kept Western Michigan in the Top 5 of the MAC offenses which are usually pretty high powered. If you're Cubit, you really need to start by teaching a consistent message to the offense. Have a strategy and stick to it and let Scheelhaase do his thing. I know there are a lot of people who want the young kid to come in, but lean on your Senior to bring some stability and smarts to the offense and build build build. Maybe throw in some schemes with Aaron Bailey to prep him for next year, but right now it's about installation and building confidence in a young and not-so-good offense. As for what improvement is, I'd say winning a B1G game where the Illini scored 20+ points would be a start. Heck, scoring 20+ points per game, might be a start.
Baba O'Really: I don't know a lot about Cubit, but I saw the Broncos in action a couple of years ago in the Pizza Bowl. They had a pretty potent passing attack in that game, which should bode well for the Illini. I don't know if Bill Cubit will be the savior of Illinois football, but he brings a basic competence that seemed lacking in 2012.
MSULaxer27: I live in Alabama. I have enough trouble trying to B1G games so I haven't seen a MAC game in a while. So wait. Illinois beat one FBS foe in Western Michigan, a WMU squad that went 4-8 and the Illini hire their head coach to run the offense? Well at least you know your defense (which gave up 45 or more points five times last year) will look good in practice since they'll be playing against the one offense they were successful against last season. If Cubit falls into a mentoring role for Beckman, this could work. If he still thinks like a head man, I think this one ends badly.
Graham Filler: Cubit did what he had to do at WMU, throwing constantly if that's what it took. What I'm saying is that, there is nowhere to go but up for Illinois, so if they want to throw all the time or run the Flying V, Cubit has the kind of cajones to execute that. Less impotent sideways passes too. The Illini need to take a page out of Northwestern's book and complete some high percentage, mid-range, mid-field throws.
You know your career has fallen when you're losing playing time to a guy named Reilly O'Toole....
3. Chicken and Rice Porridge: Prior to 2011 and even 2012, many of us would have considered Nathan Scheelhaase one of the better (or at least a league-average) QBs in the B1G. Indeed, he's shown flashes of brilliance towards his potential as a true dual-threat QB: 210 yards passing, 3 TDs, and 88 yards rushing vs. Indiana in 2011; 391 yards passing and 3 TDs plus 1 rushing TD vs. Northwestern in 2011; even 270 yards passing against PSU and 178 passing yards and 84 rushing yards vs. Wisconsin last year. Can Scheelhaase's failure to reach his potential be traced to all the coaching upheaval during his tenure at Illinois? Is he being held back by a porous offensive line? In short, what's wrong with Nathan Scheelhaase, and how does Cubit and Beckman fix it, or should they move on to some other QB?
Ted Glover: I think he has Adam Weber Syndrome. Weber, if you'll recall, was the quarterback for Tim Brewster, who changed offensive coordinators about as often as he promised that the Gophers would go to the Rose Bowl. That kind of constant change, with new offenses to learn, does nothing but hurt a quarterback's development, and Scheelhaase hit his low point last year. He's a good athlete that's in a bad situation, but maybe Bill Cubit can salvage it. He's a very respected offensive mind, and scaling back and simplifying the offense, while playing to Scheelhaase's strengths, might help him end his career on a high note. I hope it does; I like the kid.
MNWildcat: Yes, as I noted during the Butternut Squash Porridge course, if you'd pull your face out of the plate, Chad.
Aaron Yorke: You can at least partially blame the regression of Scheelhaase on the coaching upheaval because the change at the top led to a downgrade in the talent surrounding the quarterback. Considering how poorly Scheelhaase played last season, he should improve by default. That will hopefully give Cubit the confidence he needs to exploit the senior's full potential instead of handling him with kid gloves. If Cubit puts Scheelhaase in motion to take advantage of his talents and they get at least a little bit of help from the offensive line, Scheelhaase can have his best season yet.
GoAUpher: I think Scheelhaase's issues are a combo of being beat down mentally and subpar performances by his supporting cast (especially the offensive line). Once the La Tech beatdown happened, I have a sneaking suspicion that many players (not just Nate) went "here we go again" and started to get into a negative mental cycle. It's a common response for college kids, something that a Minnesota fan knows all too well (Kill has spoken extensively about having to break the team of mental bad habits that they brought with them from the Brew years).
As for can it be fixed (assuming my armchair analysis is near the mark)? Yes, but getting some early success will be important. As for whether they should stick with Scheelhaase or go in a new direction...I'm in favor of whatever gets Illinois enough wins to allows Beckman to keep his job. Yes, there is a pattern here.
MSULaxer27: So I looked to see if Reilly O'Toole was still with the team and learned that A) he is and B) he's not even the only guy named "Riley" O'Toole who played FBS football in the state of Illinois. NIU had their own Riley O'Toole who was a RS Senior WR last season . What are the chances? Is Reilly/Riley O'Toole in Illinois akin to John Smith elsewhere in the US? So anyway. I'd say after last season's disaster that all bets are off for starters. Every position should be fair game.
If Hochuli had ran over Tim Beckman, we'd still be picking pieces of Tim Beckman out of the Ryan Field turf...
4. Pine Nut Porridge: Beckman pretty much humiliated all of Illinois last season by getting trucked by a referee and getting caught on the sideline dipping Skoal. What's the most embarrassing situation a coach from your favorite school has ever been involved in, and how embarrassing was it on a scale of 1-10 Beckmans (Beckman forever being the preferred unit of measurement for B1G humiliation from this day forth)?
MNWildcat: Pat Fitzgerald jumps like a schoolgirl, then embraces it. I give it 0.5 Beckmans. He looked stupid, but at least he's a competent coach.
Aaron Yorke: Really? The most embarrassing situation a coach from my school has been involved in? Really? I'm going to spare myself and instead talk about the time Joe Paterno ran off the sideline at the Horseshoe and sprinted into the tunnel because he had the runs or something. That was actually hilarious.
GoAUpher: I think this sums things up rather nicely. That's Tim Brewster watching Bowling Green beat him with a 2 point conversion in his first game as a head coach. It serves as a nice stand-in for any Brew related failure or embarrassment.
Since there are so many options to choose from, I'll give Tim Brewster 10 Beckmans just for being Tim Brewster. Also, I really like this idea of Beckmans being the new unit for B1G failure. Nice things and all that.
Baba O'Really: Danny Hope's two-QB system was pretty embarrassing. I give it 3 Beckmans.
MSULaxer27: First off are we talking embarrassing or criminal? If it's merely the former than may I note that John L. Smith was the head coach of MSU. If the "Beckman" is the new unit of measurement for B1G humiliation, then I thank him for taking that mantle from JLS.
Graham Filler: I don't know why Skoal is embarrassing. Anyways, I will give Gary Moeller's Excalibur jaunt 9 Beckmans. The only thing keeping him from a 10 is that we've seen so many terrible things now via YouTube that I think we're desensitized to ... this. Seriously...sad, man, sad.
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