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Illinois vs Nice Things, Week 3

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The whole crowd goes wild! Both of them!
The whole crowd goes wild! Both of them!
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Nice Things Illinois Had At The Beginning Of The Offseason; Updated for Week 3 of 2015.

-Stability and experience entering the third year of the same schemes/coordinators on both sides of the ball with 49 juniors and senior on the roster which is apparently less important than it should be when the scheme is terrible on defense.

-Mike Dudek (tore an ACL in March, hopefully redshirts as we'll have nothing to play for)

-Junior WR Justin Hardee (broken foot in offseason; there's 2 of our top 3 targets)

-Dual-threat QB Aaron Bailey (who, unlike our quarterback, will run for that first down if given half the field to work with)

-Depth at RB with SR Josh Ferguson, who now has over 2,000 rushing yards and is one of two active players in the nation with over 2000 rushing/1000 receiving, and is (LOL) one of the last of the Zookers, RS JR Devin Church (transferred to EIU), RS SO Kendrick Foster, 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.

-Stalwart DT Teko Powell and veteran LB Mike Svetina returning from foot injuries that they both re-aggravated, requiring surgery

-The 6th best 2015 recruiting class in the B1G

-Stud DE Jihad Ward (foot/ankle injury in training camp) READY TO WAGE JIHAD

-An offensive line that, though unable to open holes big enough for anyone other than Ferguson, provided the best pass protection I've seen in years, allowing one sack and generally giving Wes Lunt days to throw

-Wes Lunt, who is still in line to start but may not be that nice of a thing. In that beautiful pocket, he went 15/32 for 140 yards, no TD and a pick. After a promising first drive ended with a killer drop, Wes was barely able to hook up anything other than dump-offs and screens. His longest completion was 22 yards. With our largely green receivers failing to get separation and dropping the ball, he got locked on to Geronimo Allison, and it just didn't work. I could have foreseen us losing because our defense got burned on long plays, or because our offense just couldn't protect the QB enough to get our pass game going, but I can't believe we got the protection needed to run the offense that was the whole point of bringing in Cubit/Lunt and passed for 140 yards before the garbage-time offense came in. Can't shoulder all the blame though...

-Wide reciever hands, apparently all amputated by Tim Beckman as some kind of bizarre motivational ploy. Geronimo Allison set the tone by dropping a TD on 4th and 2 on the opening drive; it was the first of 9 dropped passes, bringing our season total to 21.

-The whole defensive secondary, which couldn't stop biting on playaction. I blame this entirely on Tim Banks, who supposedly coaches an aggressive playmaking defense but in practice is a master at encouraging overpursuit.

-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)

-Backup QB Chayce Crouch has been reasonably successful as our garbage-time QB this year. I wonder where he'll transfer?

-Walk-on QB WR Man Berg, who saw the field in Week 1

-At least this year, the head coach came pre-fired. The North Carolina game was proof that Project Beckman was never going to work. I can't even imagine how despondent I would be if we'd come into this game with 4th year head coach Tim Beckman finally looking like he has a real Big Ten football team in his make-or-break year and then at long last having to suddenly accept that we're building towards 2020 now with an as-yet-undetermined head coach. I've had four weeks to deal with that reality now. Having to take this in all at once would have been too much

-Those uniforms really do look nice. Perfect timing now that we suck AND EA Sports NCAA Football is no more. Slant Illinois shall last forever in that realm.

-Illinois just finished the 2009 regular season 12-0 on my NCAA Football 2010 game. Arrelious Benn had 19 TD's, Juice Williams had 58 total TD's in only 10 games.

-2016 PG Te'Jon Lucas committed to Illinois, making him the first PG John Groce has recruited out of high school since 2013's Jaylon Tate. This means Jaylon will not be playing 40 minutes a game at the point next year!

-A worthy challenger to the title of "worst athletic department in the Big Ten." I'm not taking any joy in the misery of Rutgers fans, but it is comforting to know that it is possible to be more dysfunctional than Illinois.

-No arrests this season (fingers behind back)

-Hope that this season, though ultimately meaningless other than an audition of our program for our next head coach, would at least provide enough amusement to distract us from staring down that long, dark tunnel leading to yet another Illinois Football Rebuilding Dark Age (as though we ever really got out of the last one...) Nope. North Carolina, though incredibly talented, will finish with anywhere between 4 and 8 wins this year because that's what they do. In many ways, they're like an Illinois Ron Zook squad, underachieving massively year after year with talent we'll see on Sundays. We trailed 48-7 with our starting offense in. The turnover margin was even, and the total yards were close...but 5.0 vs 6.9 yards per carry and 4.5 vs 8.3 yards per pass attempt suggest that one defense was much more effective than the other. Time to look ahead to 2020.

-An uninspiring-at-best kicking battle between Tayler Zalewski and David Reisner Seemingly settled by Tayler Zalewski

-A LOLHAT. I see you enjoying your top 25 ranking. Laugh it up, fuzzballs. HAT.

Things That Are Not Nice But Are Still Things Illinois Has

-Tim Beckman (Week 1)

-Athletic director Mike Thomas, who certainly seems to be the guy in line to hire the next football coach. I hope he's watching MACtion with great interest, especially because he still has...

-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)

-No way to know whether or not any of our improvements are tangible. That changes on Saturday. (Week 3. I miss these days)

-The lowest-rated 2016 basketball recruiting class in the Big Ten. Too depressing to warrant a quip.

-Even with wins at #4 OSU and vs #6 PSU, Virtual 2009 Illinois finished 10th in the BCS rankings and the Heisman was won, predictably, by UF QB 15.

-A matchup against Middle Tennessee State, which has stout line play for a mid-major and a penchant for the blitz. MTSU is not the kind of mid-major you ever want to see on your schedule. I'm hopeful, but predicting a loss.

-This strange fear that we'll hire a coach that will be so successful that they'll just leave Illinois for another job. GOOD! I CAN ONLY HOPE THEY'RE SO SUCCESSFUL WE DON'T FIRE THEM!

in Conclusion: I love that our remaining home games are MTSU, UNL, WI and OSU. By September 13, I had already missed my chance to see a win in Champaign this year. Passing is tough without 2 of your top 3 targets, but injuries happen, especially to Illinois. Believe it or not, we Illini fans have hopes and dreams just like the rest of you; maybe those dreams are national championships, but sometimes those dreams are just for attending a game in Champaign to feel like Big Ten Football some day, with 60,000 on hand to cheer on an Illinois team that stands a chance at mattering in the game about to unfold. At this point, it's entirely possible that a whole US Presidency comes and goes before that happens.