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2016 Preview and Predictions: Illinois Fighting Illini Football

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Closing Arguments, presented as a Thumpasaurus Roundtable Discussion

Y'all serious with this prediction?
Y'all serious with this prediction?
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

inquisitive thumpasaurus

Hello, Big Ten football fans, and welcome to another Thumpasaurus roundtable discussion. I'm your host, Inquisitive Thumpasaurus. With less than a month to go until the start of the 2016 college football season, Las Vegas has released its odds and pundits everywhere are making their bold predictions as training camp proceeds, position battles progress and schemes fall into place. On September 3rd, the Illinois Fighting Illini will kick off the Lovie Smith era against the Murray State Racers, and at this time I'm pleased to welcome back a panel of Fighting Illini analysts to break down this season. Please welcome Depression Thumpasaurus, Pragmatic Thumpasaurus and Belligerent Thumpasaurus.

sauruses

depression thumpasaurus small

thanks for not putting me last

pragmatic thumpasaurus small

Always a pleasure to be here.

belligerent thumpasaurus

FUCK YEAH

inquisitive thumpasaurus small

Thank you for coming by the studio, gentlesaurs. We discussed the Lovie Smith hire back in March, but he's since hired a whole coaching staff and done some recruiting. Lately, he's been running a much more professional training camp than the Champaigniacs are used to, complete with an emphasis on drilling the fundamentals that's not been seen in recent memory. What's your impression of the new coaching staff?

belligerent thumpasaurus

THEY ACTUALLY GAVE LOVIE A $4 MILLION SALARY POOL TO HIRE ASSISTANTS. HOLY SHIT, THAT'S TOP-TIER ASSISTANT MONEY. THAT DOESN'T JIVE WITH ILLINOIS' TRADITIONAL COMMITMENT TO HALF-ASSING A BIG TIME FOOTBALL PROGRAM. THAT'S LEGIT. I DIDN'T THINK THEY HAD IT IN THEM.

pragmatic thumpasaurus small

I was quite pleased with the coaching staff because every single one is a true football coach, not just a recruiting specialist wasting a spot on the staff. Defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson is more of a coaching prospect than an established coach, but he's a well-regarded name and a disciple of a proficient tactician (Smith himself) whose son just happens to be a pro prospect at MLB who transferred to Illinois. That's about as high an upside as you can hope for. The staff has ties to virtually every part of the country for recruiting purposes, and many have major FBS experience and NFL experience. I am particularly happy with the decision to designate a special teams coordinator in Bob Ligasheky given the historic struggles of Illinois with that phase of the game. Garrick McGee, who has experience as an FBS head coach, will only be limited by the talent he has to work with and how long it takes before he's hired away to be a head coach again.

depression thumpasaurus small

and boy will he be limited. we lose geronimo allison and josh ferguson on offense, quarterback depth barely exists, our returning receivers have notorious difficulty holding on to the ball and mike dudek hurt himself again.

belligerent thumpasaurus

I BLAME YOU FOR MIKE DUDEK, BY THE WAY:

PREDICTION

YOU DID THIS.

depression thumpasaurus small

i did, didn't i? it's always my fault. forgive me, illini nation

belligerent thumpasaurus

NO.

inquisitive thumpasaurus small

Well, that was uncomfortable. So let's move on. Let's get down to business.

belligerent thumpasaurus

TO DEFEAT....THE 'CATS!

inquisitive thumpasaurus small

Please refrain from interrupting me. The last time a preview of the 2016 Illinois season was published here on OTE, Bill Cubit was still the coach. Let's go game by game here and see what we're dealing with. I'll start with North Carolina, as a loss to a bad FCS team in Murray State will merit a novel from my depressed guest. Coming off an 11-3 record, the UNC Tar Heels will come to Champaign on September 10th in primetime. What are we thinking here?

pragmatic thumpasaurus small

Loss to take us to 1-1. There's just too much talent in that UNC team, they've been recruiting at an elite level and last year it looked like they actually had coaching to take advantage of it. I don't know that home field advantage will do enough to change the result significantly from last year's blowout.

depression thumpasaurus small

co-sign on a loss to go to 1-1. it's going to be ugly. why wouldn't it? it's the primetime debut of the lovie smith illini against the hated unc tar heels, so of course we're going to lose big.

belligerent thumpasaurus

SORRY, WE WIN. 2-0. UNC LOSES STARTING QB MARQUISE WILLIAMS AND THEIR OFFENSE STARTS TO LOOK LIKE OURS DID LAST YEAR. BANG. AN OBJECTIVELY DETESTABLE PROGRAM PICKS UP WHAT LOOKS LIKE A BAD LOSS AND THE COLLEGE SPORTS WORLD REJOICES.

inquisitive thumpasaurus small

The next week, the Fighting Illini host the Western Michigan Broncos. How do you think our boys will fare?

depression thumpasaurus small

well i mean the furious rowing at western michigan has outrecruited illinois over the last few years and it seems like we're due for a macrifice doesn't it? loss, 1-2

belligerent thumpasaurus

BILLY CUBES WOULD HAVE LOST THIS ONE WITH PREDICTABLE PLAYCALLING BUT LOVIE SMITH WILL DO NO SUCH THING. NOT ONLY WILL HE SENT FLECK BACK TO KALAMAZOO WITH A LOSS, HE WILL CONVINCE BELL'S BREWERY TO RELOCATE TO CHAMPAIGN.

pragmatic thumpasaurus small

As good as Western Michigan was last year, the defensive experience of the Fighting Illini will ultimately prove to be the difference-maker. This one will be uncomfortably close for those of us who don't like to see Big Ten teams lose to the MAC, but the Illini will pull this one off by 3 or less.

inquisitive thumpasaurus small

After a bye week, the conference slate opens at Nebraska's so-called "Memorial Stadium." What do you think Illinois will do there?

depression thumpasaurus small

same thing they've always done there. lose. 1-3.

belligerent thumpasaurus

IT'S CALLED MEMORIAL STADIUM TO COMMEMORATE THE NATIONAL POWERHOUSE THEY ONCE HAD AND NEVER WILL AGAIN. WE MIGHT LOSE BIG THOUGH.

pragmatic thumpasaurus small

Mike Riley's first conference game was an abject disaster. It's difficult to imagine Tommy Armstrong going 10/31 again. A road game against Nebraska is not how I'd prefer to open the conference slate. 2-2.

inquisitive thumpasaurus small

On October 9th, the Fighting Illini will try to defend their biggest conference win of 2015 and keep the Cannon when they host the Purdue Boilermakers. Your thoughts?

pragmatic thumpasaurus small

Win.

depression thumpasaurus small

not a loss

belligerent thumpasaurus

BOOM!

inquisitive thumpasaurus small

Lovie will hit the road for the first conference matchup against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in Chris Ash's first year. How will our boys fare?

belligerent thumpasaurus

I'M GONNA EAT SOME MORE ADMINISTRATORS IF WE LOSE TO THE 'GERS

pragmatic thumpasaurus small

Although it's a road game, I simply can't see how Illinois isn't better on paper. Rutgers fielded an absolutely terrible defense last year, and though they've managed to get to August 10th without having any defensive backs arrested, that doesn't inspire much confidence in them. Leonte Carroo is gone, and Paul James finally hobbled into the sunset. Between Ke'Shaun Vaughn and the defensive line, Illinois should be a little too much.

depression thumpasaurus small

chris ash had a 4+ month head start on building a program. i don't know, i think if it's a home game we definitely win, but a disheveled offense might have a serious problem making anything happen if the new scheme takes a long time to gel. i'll say this is a loss to take us to 2-4.

inquisitive thumpasaurus small

After that, the road trip goes to Ann Arbor, Michigan to take on the Michigan Wolverines Fightin' Harbaughs.

depression thumpasaurus small
pragmatic thumpasaurus small
belligerent thumpasaurus

NOPE.

inquisitive thumpasaurus small

How discouraging. Homecoming is the next week against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. How will the Grey Ghosts do?

depression thumpasaurus small

continuity is an important thing in college football when you're not a program full of bagmen like ohio state. minnesota's coaching staff has continuity. ours was replaced in march. 2-6.

belligerent thumpasaurus

I THINK LEIDNER IS COLORBLIND BECAUSE HE COULDN'T TELL HIS GUYS FROM OURS BACK IN 2014. THIS TEAM IS WORSE THAN THAT ONE. THIS IS A WIN FOR ILLINOIS, AND IT MIGHT BE A BIG ONE.

pragmatic thumpasaurus small

As much as the coaching continuity helps, I simply don't see where this Minnesota team is better than last year's. Sure, they almost beat Michigan, but Illinois was close against Iowa and Nebraska beat Michigan State. If this is an away game, maybe I take Minnesota, but as it's at home, I'll take Illinois narrowly.

inquisitive thumpasaurus small

I think we can all agree that if we can get through our home loss to Michigan State without Wes Lunt's dad getting arrested and banned from the campus, we'll be satisfied. So how will they do visiting the Wisconsin Badgers on November 12th?

belligerent thumpasaurus

BART SIMPSON WILL HAND OFF TO WHOEVER IS SUPPOSED TO BE THEIR GOOD RUNNINGBACK TWICE BEFORE HE LEAVES THE GAME WITH A BRUISED PRIDE. THEN HE'LL TRY TO PREVENT THE YIPS FROM SETTING IN AS THE CROWD REALIZES THIS IS THE YEAR WISCONSIN STOPS BEING A THING. 7-3.

depression thumpasaurus small

we suck at camp randall. some little white slot receiver we've never heard of will have 16 catches for 221 yards and 2 td's against us. let's hope our best defensive back doesn't get a 15-yard targeting penalty for knocking himself out of the game this time.

pragmatic thumpasaurus small

I'm not seeing this one. Their coaches may be turning over but this remains an experienced team with a seasoned offensive line and a solid defense. This could be a big struggle. Hopefully we'll look competitive at Wisconsin for once.

inquisitive thumpasaurus small

The Iowa Hawkeyes have split their last two visits to Champaign, winning in 2014 but losing in 2008. Perhaps someday I'll anchor a segment on FOX News with my statistical cherry-picking. But I digress. Can we be as superior to Iowa as our corn is to theirs?

depression thumpasaurus small

lol no. and i wasn't really laughing out loud. in fact. i didn't even crack a smile.

belligerent thumpasaurus

SOMEHOW WE'LL LOSE THIS GAME AND REGRET USING ALL OUR TIMEOUTS AND CHALLENGES IN THE FIRST AND THIRD QUARTER.

pragmatic thumpasaurus small

I'm simply not seeing this one as a win either. Iowa will have plenty to play for, and the Fighting Illini secondary has lost a lot of experience from last year. The Hawkeyes could have a field day through the air, infuriating their fans in a win. 5-6.

inquisitive thumpasaurus small

Lovie Smith's inaugural campaign at the helm of the Fighting Illini will culminate in a showdown at Little Ryan Football Park in Evanston. What's your take on this game and the season?

depression thumpasaurus small

the offense simply won't get it done and this will be a frustrating loss to end the season 2-10 (1-8). an unfriendly schedule will have done us no favors, and the loss of mikey dudek as a big playmaker will have proven to be fatal to our aspirations for a multi-dimensional offense.  this is in no way an indictment on lovie smith, who had a compressed timeline to prepare a fully-inherited roster for a tough season, just an indicator that it'll take a while to build a good program in champaign.

pragmatic thumpasaurus small

I feel that this is my boldest prediction, but I'll take Illinois over the Northwestern Wildcats. Their offensive improvements will be baby steps, and Illinois will only get better as the year goes on. What really swung me on this one was Lovie Smith's stated intention that beating Northwestern is priority number 1. When Tim Beckman says that, I roll my eyes. When Lovie Smith says it, I believe him. 6-6 (4-5).

belligerent thumpasaurus

NORTHWESTERN MANAGED TO TROT OUT A WORSE OFFENSE THAN ILLINOIS LAST YEAR. CLAYTON THORSON IS LEARNING? WELL HE'D BETTER BE LEARNING SOMETHING, BECAUSE HE'LL NEED THAT DEGREE WHEN HE GRADUATES WITH NO NFL INTEREST. PAT FITZGERALD IS A SMUG ASSHOLE AND NORTHWESTERN IS NOW IN THE NO-MAN'S-LAND BETWEEN ADORABLE AND LEGITIMATE. ILLINOIS FINISHES 8-4 (5-4) AND SUDDENLY YOU ASSHOLES TAKE NOTICE. OH IT'LL BE WORSE NEXT YEAR BUT THE RECRUITING UPTICK WILL CANCEL THAT OUT. ANYONE HEAR ABOUT THIS NINE-FIGURE FACILITY UPGRADE GOIN DOWN IN A FEW YEARS? SOMEHOW, JOSH WHITMAN'S CONVINCED THE UNIVERSITY THAT FOOTBALL'S WORTH DOING RIGHT IF IT'S WORTH DOING AT ALL!

inquisitive thumpasaurus small

Now that we've been through this season, let's take a look at what the OTE staff predicted for the inaugural Lovie Smith campaign and get your reactions:

WRITER PREDICTED RECORD
Aaron Yorke 3-9 (2-7)
Andrew Kraszewski 4-8 (2-7)
StewMonkey13 3-9 (2-7)
WhiteSpeedReceiver 3-9 (2-7)
Brian Gillis 3-9 (2-7)
MNWildcat 4-8 (2-7)
Creighton M 4-8 (2-7)
DJ Carver 2-10 (0-9)
AlnamiasIV 3-9 (1-8)
Candystripes for Breakfast 3-9 (1-8)
Graham Filler 2-10 (0-9)
babaoreally 7-5 (5-4)
Jesse Collins 4-8 (2-7)
Zuzu 2-10 (0-9)
87Townie 3-9 (1-8)
Thumpasaurus (Pragmatic) 6-6 (4-5)
Thomas Speth 5-7 (2-7)
OTE STAFF AVERAGE: 3.6-8.4 (1.8-7.2)

pragmatic thumpasaurus small

I think people are a little low on Illinois this year. I won't actually be that disappointed if it ends up as a 3-9 season knowing the struggles of implementing new schemes, but I would like to see some early returns. Many predictions of a WMU loss aren't all that shocking either, but four predictions of a winless conference season are what I see as outliers, and I guess I'm just not seeing Minnesota as being particularly good next year. My verdict: OTE appreciably underrates the 2016 Illinois Fighting Illini.

depression thumpasaurus small

please pass me some of what baba is smoking and what speth is drinking. i'd love to live in a world where we go 3-0 in non-con play or have a winning record in conference play. based on my verdict, OTE slightly overrates the 2016 Illinois Fighting Illini

belligerent thumpasaurus

ARE YOU SHITTING ME WITH THIS? I JUST DON'T SEE HOW WE GET SO MUCH WORSE AND TEAMS LIKE PURDUE RUTGERS AND MINNESOTA GET SO MUCH BETTER. AS ALWAYS, OTE SIGNIFICANTLY UNDERRATES THE 2016 FIGHTING ILLINI AND I THINK THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THAT THIS TIME THEY'VE SKIPPED PAST THE PART WHERE I ROAR IN THEIR FACES AND STRAIGHT TO THE PART WHERE I DEVOUR SAID FACES.

inquisitive thumpasaurus small

Well, thank you very much for joining me. Once again, the Illinois Fighting Illini start the season on September 3rd against Murray State. If you've missed our Illinois coverage, you can find it right here and look for more details at The Champaign Room. I'm Inquisitive Thumpasaurus saying goodbye and Oskee Wow Wow for now.