Nice Things Illinois Has, Updated for Week 4 of 2015.
-Just enough luck to get away with setting up an opponent for a winning field goal
-A winning record!
-A head coach who, though destined to spend a year as a mediocre-at-best interim coach, is at least not a doofus After spending two timeouts and turning the ball over on downs on one play in the third quarter, I have my doubts. Either he spent too much time around Beckman, his headset is still haunted, or being named Head Coach at Illinois just drops your IQ immediately. Two straight games with a coaching gaffe? Same as it ever was.
-The ability we showed in Week 1 and 2 to execute and keep the gas on against an inferior opponent After blocking a punt for a TD to take a 14-3 lead early, we forced a punt on the ensuing drive. Then V'Angelo Bentley made the bizarre decision to get out of the way instead of fair-catching the ball, and it was downed six inches from our goal line. On the first play, a fumbled snap caused a safety. We allowed a quick touchdown, so suddenly it was 14-12. Vintage Illinois.
-Depth at RB with SR Josh Ferguson (injured vs MTSU) who will not miss a gameRS 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, who's emerging as a change-of-pace back
-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 rosterwhich certainly doesn't seem very evident when you watch the offense that we've been running for 3 years. I know Nebraska's going to be really worried when we march down and score on the opening drive, but after that the offense will fall apart, run wrong routes and be put in bad situations by the playcalling. Every opening offensive drive this year has looked terrific, and has also been by far the best the offense looked all game.
-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)
-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)
-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)who anchored a line that was stout against a respectable MTSU run game along with Chunky Clements and Rob Bain. This may be a strength for this team
-An offensive line that continues to play as though they're experienced and capable, though having to deal with more blitzes they were under more pressure. Still, it's refreshing to see the whole line play better than putting five turnstiles in front of the QB.
-Wes Lunt, who can't shoulder all the blame and can still make throws but really needs to get the ball out faster and stop checking down to screen passes at the line of scrimmage. We hardly ever develop those plays.
-Wide reciever hands, apparently all amputated by Tim Beckman as some kind of bizarre motivational ploy before the season. 26 drops in 4 games.
-The whole defensive secondary,which remains disappointing and got torn up in the second half. Looking forward to how they defend Nebraska with most of the same players as last year.
-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)
-Walk-on QB WR Man Berg, who saw the field in Week 1
-At least this year, the head coach came pre-fired.
-Those uniforms really do look nice, especially in the Orange/Blue/Orange combo, which should be our primary
-No arrests this season
-An uninspiring-at-best kicking battle between Tayler Zalewski and David Reisner Seemingly settled by Tayler Zalewski, who ironically joins David Reisner as one of the most unlikely hero kickers in recent memory.
-An 18-season streak of not losing to Nebraska at home. If Nebraska fans in the comments this week are to be believed, Illinois also has a very easy home matchup.
-Hope, against all odds, that the next coach hired will lead us to the promised land.
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)
-No way to know whether or not any of our improvements are tangible. That changes on Saturday.(Week 3. I miss these days)
-2016 SF Xavier Sneed just commited not to Illinois but to a Kansas State program from whom Bruce Weber has been running off all his players all year. What do you know, Bruce Weber won a recruiting battle!
-This strange fear that we'll hire a coach that will be so successful that they'll just leave Illinois for another job. When people want to hire your coach away, it usually means your program is good.
-I have a gig Saturday night that will almost certainly prevent me from seeing the end of the Illinois-Nebraska game. This will probably be a good thing, but since I am insane and delusional, I am concerned about watching it just in case we don't get embarrassed like every other time we play an established program.
in Conclusion: Welcome to Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Home of the Embarrassing WinTM. Sit back and relax, as there won't be that many people to obstruct your view of the game or make any distracting noise your offense might dislike. Those who are there will almost certainly default to detached cynicism towards the team by the second quarter. Have fun celebrating on our field with your players. I'd love to be a visiting fan in Champaign.
However, we did get a win, which means that we won't have a losing record going into Homecoming a month from now!
Also, HAT. Or something. I don't know how this rivalry is supposed to work, I just generally refuse to take them seriously and it seems like they do the same.