Nice Things Illinois Has, Updated for Week 5 of 2015.
-Just enough luck to get away with setting up an opponent for a winning field goal As of Week 5, I think something else is in play here. MTSU kept going to the running game even late when it wasn't working, and had a bizarre and ill-advised running play for a loss on their last gasp drive with no timeouts. Nebraska executed an incomplete pass on 3rd and 7 with 55 seconds left where Illinois had no timeouts, effectively giving the Illini enough time to make a last-gasp drive. Consider also James Franklin's strange decision to punt on fourth and inches near midfield and I'd say coaches are starting to lose their minds when they come to Champaign. I don't know if this is a Nice Thing, but it certainly is entertaining.
-A winning record!
-An undefeated record at home this year. Will Chryst or Meyer lose their minds as well?
-Illinois has only lost to Iowa once since 2007. Illinois has a chance to make a statement on behalf of all the underrated corn in the state, as it is 1-0 against other B1G teams from cornfields this year. You think Iowa-Nebraska is the battle for corn supremacy? NOT SO FAST, MY FRIEND.
-Depth at RB(Week 5) with SR Josh Ferguson (injured vs MTSU) who will not miss a game left the Nebraska game and is "very very doubtful" for IowaRS JR Devin Church (transferred to EIU), RS SO Kendrick Foster, who may need to take snaps now,3-star FR Reggie Corbin(torn labrum; season), 4-star FR Dre Brown(ACL), JUCO transfer Henry Enyenihi and 4-star FR Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who is going to be a big part of the offense going forward. Rocking the number 5 in the Illini backfield tends to work out pretty well, but we are now officially thin at RB.
-Wes Lunt, who I'm appreciating more and more as the weeks go by. Though he doesn't have the best completion percentage, his incompletions tend to be low-risk, as he's pretty good at putting the ball in a spot where either his receiver can get it or nobody can. In 191 pass attempts, he's been picked off twice. With the wind at their backs, the offense finally seemed to hit its stride in the fourth quarter against Nebraska, and the last-minute drive was largely due to careful gunslinging by #WildWildWes.
-A replacement-level offensive line that while unable to open holes in the run game has given the offense enough time for routes to develop and passes to be thrown. Replacement-level is all I ever wanted!
-Four downs to gain 10 yards just like everyone else(Week 5) In a bizarre officiating fiasco, Illinois briefly found themselves playing Canadian rules football when they were in effect given 3 downs to gain 10 yards. Here is an explanation with visuals.
-Wide reciever hands, apparently all amputated by Tim Beckman as some kind of bizarre motivational ploy before the seasonGeronimo Allison's Week 5 shows that he must have fooled Hacksaw Timmy with prosthetics.
-Dual-threat QB Aaron Bailey(though RS FR Chayce Crouch fills in nicely for Bailey as the quarterback we put in when we want to tell the defense that we're running a QB read option. We tried this on fourth and short in Week 5 and Nebraska stuffed it for a loss of four. I wouldn't mind if we discontinued that package.)
Mike Dudek (tore an ACL in March, to be reevaluated during the week 7 bye)
-Junior WR Justin Hardee (broken foot in offseason; see Dudek)
-Stalwart DT Teko Powell and veteran LB Mike Svetina returning from foot injuries that they both re-aggravated, requiring surgery
-If all goes according to plan, all Illinois games will be on TV this year (Week 1; postponement due to lightning left this game without a broadcast crew)
-No arrests this season
-An uninspiring-at-best kicking battle between Tayler Zalewski and David ReisnerSeemingly settled by Tayler Zalewski, who went 0/2 in Week 5 but crucially made both extra points
-Certainly, Illinois has a claim to the B1Ggest Coaching Adjustment Of The Week, going to the punting bullpen to sub Reisner in for Ryan Frain
-A 19-season streak of not losing to Nebraska at home.
-Hope, against all odds, that the next coach hired will lead us to the promised land, bolstered by the notion that the experience and talent on this roster will be a major selling point to our future coach, whoever he may be.
-The perception that Illinois is a terrible team capable of only terrible things and requiring no further explanation makes for some really fun message board lurking when the Illini win a conference game. Illinois has won 4 of its last 6 conference games, but gets absolutely no respect due to 2012/13 and losing to Purdue last year. It's kind of like Illinois let a deafening fart in 2012 and the conference went "What the hell was that? GROSS, Illinois!" Now we've reached the stage where that cloud is drifting towards the rest of the B1G and I, for one, am laughing as people have overly dramatic reactions to contact with it.
-Hey, Northwestern. #13, huh? And you shut out a good Minnesota team to get there, a Minnesota team that must be good because they beat mighty Northwestern last year! How's it feel to get so close to the sun? Does it feel...hot? Don't you wish you could cover the top of your head with something? Like...a....HAT?
Things That Are Not Nice But Are Still Things Illinois Has
-Tim Beckman (Week 1)
-Athletic director Mike Thomas
-Pending release of that external investigation whose preliminary reports prompted an immediate head coach firing. This thing is going to land during the season, and it's entirely possible that more heads are gonna roll.
-Vacancies in the Provost and Chancellor chairs.
-The unofficial voice of Illinois Football, Beth Mowins (week 3)
-The UNC loss still happened, and it was still ugly. However, this may be a nice thing? I'm certainly not expecting that we're suddenly a lot better than we were 3 weeks ago, but you're never as good as your best win or as bad as your worst loss.
-Realistically, this road game against Iowa is not a particularly nice thing, as they have a quarterback.
In Conclusion: Sorry for telling you lies last week, Nebraska, but in my defense I thought you'd be able to pressure #WILDWILDWES more than you did. It remains to be seen what beating Nebraska means both for this season and beyond, but for the time being, it appears that Illinois has at least a temporary right to nice things.