We march on with Illinois Week, fairly confident that we’ve been more than optimistic enough for some, and, uh...not nearly optimistic enough for others:
He wrote a great positive article about the Illini on Tuesday, reflecting that he's capable of actually conducting research and analysis and use insight and logic to project a very favorable outcome for the year. Recommend you guys cut the snark and do more of these. I-L-L— David Theisen (@illini101458) May 16, 2019
I’m...I’m really not sure what to do with this advice, given that I write for Off Tackle Empire dot com.
Anyway, it’s been quite a week here for Illinois, with the usual depression that results from talking about the Illini transfer saga, constantly-rebuilding defense, and AW LOOK AT THAT THERE ARE CUTE ILLINI SERVICE DOGS.
But it’s an interesting discussion, no? How much does anyone—from a journalist for the Chicago Tribune to an amateur sportsblogyeller at Off Tackle Empire—owe it to readers to spin the facts in a positive light? On the one hand...that’s where clicks come from, in large part. Unless you can say things so outlandish that people instantly want to fight you, you have to pump up programs, say nice things to keep SIDs happy, and so on.
All this is my way of saying—I don’t appreciate often enough just how much shit team-specific blogs have to deal with, specifically managing the expectations of homers who proclaim each season that “THIS YEAR’S 6-6!” against all evidence to the contrary, and then swear they’ll withhold donations until the Chief comes back.
Question #1: BBQ in Downstate Illinois? Surprising.
As you head south on I-57, the prairies of the Midwest give way to the hilly, forested Upland South, split by ravines and gullies and all sorts of growth breaking up the fields of Springfield, Champaign, and Effingham. It’s an odd mix of Midwest and South, but it’s damn good -- look no further than 17th Street BBQ, a downstate tradition whose founder, Mike Mills, has won four World Championships.
And so, the Food Question: Give us your best barbecue recipe. Ribs, wings, smoked, sauced...we don’t care. But give us the good stuff, damnit.
Jesse: Lately, I’m going all-in on ribs. I don’t do too much beyond look for the best ribs I can find. Preferably some St. Louis cut—apt for this week somehow—and definitely some with a good amount of meat on the bone. I do all the normal trimming and removing of the silver skin, but so does everyone else. Salt brine for about 6 hours or so (or longer if you have time) and then do a nice sugar, smoked chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, some sorta bitter (I use a rosemary dust that amazingribs.com recommended and it’s great), mustard powder, and a touch of coffee. Throw that in the smoker with oak for 6 hours or so and then voila. It’s pretty damn good.
BRT: I can’t cook for shit. I’m a woman of many talents, gifts, and assets, but cooking ain’t one of ‘em. I am, however, excellent at consuming barbeque.
WSR: Hey! Finally something I’m interested in this week!
While I’m a huge ribs fan and will make them in my smoker about twice a month during non-winter months, my favorite thing to make is a brisket:
- I’ve got a dry rub recipe from a blogging buddy in that bbq hotbed of Edmonton (Love you Gally!) that goes on 24 hours before it hits the smoker.
- Then I use cherry wood in the smoker heated to 225 and try to avoid opening it until the internal temp gets to 200 (only refilling the drip pan and occasionally mopping it).
- While I’m ever-so-patiently waiting (LOLOLOL) the 8-ish hours it takes, I’ll play some stupid yard games and read and do anything to take my mind of that delicious, delicious meat.
- When it’s done, slice it up, serve it with whatever sides people want, and then (THIS IS ACTUALLY THE BEST PART!!!) use the leftover to make chili 2 days later.
I have no idea why this works, but if you wait 2 days after smoking it the flavor of the brisket in the chili is at its best.
Unfortunately, our friends in Champaign only play something approaching football, and we sure aren’t calling it the good stuff. Looking at the schedule, too...it’s not getting better any time soon.
Townie: I can’t say that I originated this brisket recipe, but it’s the best I’ve ever made…
- First, prep the brisket - trim the fat and score the meat. Then rub down the brisket with a home-made rub. I use garlic powder, salt, pepper, chile powder, brown sugar, and paprika. That goes into the fridge overnight.
- The next morning, I set up my grill (Big Green Egg) for indirect heat. I keep it low - around 225 - 250 degrees. I smoke it with apple and hickory wood. Cook about 5 hours until you get to 170 degrees internal temp...then we apply the “texas crutch”.
- Wrap the brisket in heavy duty foil and pour on about a cup of the crutch.
- I use apple juice, brown sugar, bourbon and barbeque sauce. Keep the temperature low and go for another 2 hours or until it hits 190 degrees.
- Then I wrap the brisket in a towel and put it in a cooler for 30 minutes +/- to let the meat rest. Pull it out and slice it across the grain for some serious bbq goodness.
You are welcome.
Whose recipe are you inviting yourself over for?
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My own, which I shall share with you in the comments.
Question #2: What’s Unsurprising? 4-8 in Champaign.
With a relatively forgiving schedule—DOUBLE MACTION! UCONN!—in the non-conference, Illinois sets up to enter Big Ten play 3-0, and possibly better if Nebraska Cornhuskers or Minnesota Golden Gophers haven’t made their strides in 2019. But let’s look at the whole ball of wax:
So tell us: How does Illinois football finish in 2019?
Candystripes: Um, yikes.
I’m not going to say it’s likely that Illinois wins its last game of the season in September, but the possibility is pretty strong, particularly if the sleeping giant of the East begins to wake up this year. Of course, it would be totally reasonable for Illinois to look terrible for most of the year, only to win back HAT just to screw with our Northwestern cabal.
Basically, if the Illini don’t win a home game in the B1G this year, don’t expect them to steal one on the road either.
Jesse: I see two wins—UConn, who is literally the worst, and Eastern Michigan, who is less of a pushover but will be an underdog to the Illini—and then a bunch of obvious losses. Maybe you could convince me that they actually beat Rutgers, but I gave it to the Knights last week so… 2-10? Ouch.
Know what? I can’t do that. Let’s go 3-9 (1-8) and give them a B1G win over Purdue in the world’s dumbest trap week.
BRT: Please don’t let their last win of the year be against Nebraska Cornhuskers. :(
(Confession: although that game was rightly maligned for no one at all playing defense, it was a hoot to watch.)
I’ll give them three wins: UCONN, EMU, and either Rutgers or some other random B1G win just for the hell of it--Minnesota, Northwestern, or Nebraska seem most likely. Perhaps even MSU if they remain committed to scoring 5 points a game or whatever the hell they did last year. But yeah, tough to see more than three wins on there, unless they’ve miraculously progressed like, a lot. (Or, someone tanks hard that we didn’t anticipate.)
WSR: I think Rutgers wins 2 games, both non-conf. That means that, through the process of elimination, Illinois will win a conference game. CONGRATULATIONS! 4-8 (1-8). And good luck on that next coaching search. I hear that Tim Brewster is ready to return to the B1G.
Townie: Ugh. I think they beat Akron, with its new coach and terrible 2018 record (remember them, Northwestern fans???). And I think they beat Randy Edsall’s inept UConn squad too. Being Illinois, I don’t think they win another game...
MNW: I’ve never heard of Akron in my life.
As far as Illinois goes, it seems too easy to suggest they’ll just walk out of that non-conference unscathed. I like what Chris Creighton has done at Eastern, and Shaq Vann seems like exactly the kind of running back who could wear down the Illini as the game goes on. So I’d give the Illini 90% at home against Akron, 75% on the road at UConn, and 60% at home against the Eagles. [Shout-out to the guy at the MAC Championship wearing an EMU Hurons sweatshirt who was excited to talk about why he was there in the first place.]
Thus, while I’m taking a win away from the Illini in the non-conference, I still think they’ll nab at least one in the conference—Rutgers, of course. But...am I sure they won’t steal one against Nebraska or Northwestern at home? Against Purdue or Minnesota on the road?
Not particularly, but usually we learn by October that we’re completely wrong about the mushy middle of Big Ten football. Why not Illinois? (They’ll be 3-9, 1-8.)
Thumpasaurus: The Illinois Fighting Trap Games!
- Akron we lead after the first quarter but they never really go away, a lot of things aren’t working.
- Connecticut it feels like we should have won by a lot more but we fumbled at the goal line, muffed a punt, gave up a busted coverage TD.
- EMU is a lot like the western illinois game last year but with a score that reflects it.
- Nebraska we lead in the third quarter but our defense gets tired.
- Minnesota is pissed as hell and just beats us the whole game.
- Michigan leads 17-3 at half but we don’t give up.
- Wisconsin: We tie the game with like 6 minutes to go, and they drive down to score the winning touchdown with under a minute left.
- Purdue just fucking annihilates us.
- We get an early lead on Rutgers but don’t put it away til the last ten minutes
- The Michigan State game is just an abominable spectacle to watch.
- We take the opening drive against Iowa for a touchdown, miss the extra point and never score again.
- Northwestern gets out to a 14-0 lead and we slightly outplay them from then on, but it doesn’t matter.
How does Illinois fare in the Big Ten?
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4-5 or better!
How does Illinois finish overall?
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1-11 or worse
ILLINI BOWLIN’, Y’ALL
Your homework: Vote in the polls! Tell us your best BBQ recipes! Give us your picks in the comments! Thanks for enjoying Illinois Week with us at OTE.