Welcome (back?) to Off Tackle Empire!
You’ve stumbled upon B1G 2021, our week-by-week, team-by-team preview of the 2021 Big Ten football season.
I’m so sorry, but this week we’re talking about the Illinois Fighting Illini.
No, hey, wait, come back!
Today we’ve got dubious claims to fame, Illinois bolstering its quarterback room in the transfer portal, me lying somewhere within that last clause, and the best B1G-to-B1G transfers in recent memory.
Honestly, how did we not talk about this when it happened?
Please, writers, provide us a claim your town—whether university, home, or adopted—makes to fame that, uh, is perhaps dubious.
Candystripes: I hope that my hometown is better known for other things, but supposedly, William Shatner got married here in 2001. Which part of that statement is most dubious is entirely up to the reader’s discretion.
BoilerBettor: My hometown has the Dan Quayle Vice Presidential Learning Center and Museum. Just gonna let that fester for a decade or so.
Beez: Eau Claire is the horseradish capital of the world, a claim which both seemed impossible and not worth researching or contesting.
Madison was repeatedly voted “Best Party School” when I was there, another claim which seems inaccurate and not really worth arguing about because there is no way to control for any of the variables involved in selecting best party school.
Green Akers: I’ve never known Saginaw to talk itself up very much - if you google it, the first suggested question is “how bad is Saginaw?”, which feels a little clickbaity, but you get the picture. It’s home to Theodore Roethke, Stevie Wonder, and a fistful of professional athletes (Jason Richardson, LaMarr Woodley, Charles Rogers, Draymond Green), and a bakery good enough to make most other bread in the world taste like sliced sawdust to me, but overall it’s a sufficiently Midwest Modest place.
Kind of…: Besides Beez already properly knocking the UW party school reputation, Madison also likes to present itself as lefty-utopia. This is radically overstated. It IS certainly a very left-leaning town, but so much of that reputation is built on the late 60s and early 70s (and that featured plenty of nuttiness and excess), and that Paul Soglin was mayor three times. Today (in large part because of Soglin’s third tenure), Madison is as corporate-friendly as leftiness gets as any walk down State Street will make clear. [And, really, really white. Listening to some folks talk about their pride in voting for Tammy Baldwin (and Mark Pocan) and you almost feel a “Get Out” sort of vibe.]
HWAHSQB: My hometown had the largest hog slaughter plant in the world at the time I grew up there. My current town has this commemorative plaque celebrating the town’s history.
MNW: My hometown has the only strip club in Minnesota that has both full booze and full nudity!
Once they held a carwash and tried to donate the money to the local school district, only to have it turned down.
My elementary school—literally 1000 feet up the hill—closed a couple years later.
Good News: There’s competition in the QB room
Bad News: You already know who it is...
In honor of this great victory for Illinois, we also celebrate the Illini as winners of the 2021 transfer lottery. I speak, of course, of the acquisition by Bert of highly-touted and oft-lauded QB Artur Sitkowski, formerly of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Congrats, Illinois!
Sitkowski joins a quarterback room molded by the transfer, with QB1 and walking Spring Break mugshot Brandon Peters plying his trade for the Fightin’ BORTS. This morning HWAHSQB illuminated us as to the Illini’s new scheme under OC Tony Petersen, while Thump has already bemoaned Illinois football becoming a new variation on an old joke.
But...could a competitive QB room or at least a new HC be what Peters and/or Sitkowski need? Give me an idea of if Bert can make the Illini offense succeed, and review a B1G-to-B1G transfer that made your squad better.
BoilerBettor: Well, now they have a QB that can beat Purdue, so there’s that.
WSR: First of all, absolutely not. Sitkowski is over his head in D1. He probably wouldn’t even be the starter at 13th grade schools like North Dakota State, either. Going to a program without a QB doesn’t make him better, it just means that they’re still looking for a QB. And Minnesota’s best B1G-to-B1G transfer is Kim Royston. Not only did he come to his senses and mature and leave madison, he immediately became the best member of the secondary during the Tim Brewster era by not being some HS kid recruited by Tim Brewster. Jesus, what a disaster that hire was.
Bonus points for having a pair of goddamn boulders and ending YET ANOTHER gun in school situation:
S/O my brother Kim Royston for his courageous and successful efforts in disarming the shooter at Plymouth Middle School today. Not surprised because of you all those students and faculty are safe.— Kyle Skye (@KyleSkye) April 26, 2021
Beez: No, I don’t think the competitive room is gonna make Illinois better. I don’t think having any QB is gonna matter for Bret. He’s there to get the 3rd- and 4th-tier O Line recruits and run the ball 75% of the time.
Green Akers: Everybody needs someone to run the scout team, I guess. But notwithstanding his marginal step forward in limited snaps last year, expecting much more from Sitkowski at this point seems unwise.
I’m sure there’s been one, but for the life of me I can’t think of an in-conference transfer that did much at MSU, at least in recent memory. We did complete the player-to-be-named-later part of sending Edward Warinner to Michigan a couple years ago in taking back Ben Vansumeren, so we’ll see if we end up winning that trade.
Kind of…: [Notes yesterday’s whipped cream canister isn’t completely empty...What the hell] I KNOW Illinois is in a lot worse shape that UW, but what Bielema wants to do doesn’t require an amazing QB. Do you remember Tyler Donovan QBing a 12-1 team at UW? Are you really gonna hold Chris Ash against Sitkowski? He was a big-time recruit. Not sure he’ll win the starting job this year, but when Illinois grabs a minor bowl bid next year, it won’t be in spite of Sitkowski.
In terms of B1G-to-B1G transfer, well, I don’t care about your rules. My answer is Melvin Gordon de-committing from Iowa and coming to UW instead. Suck it Ferentz.
HWAHSQB: I think backup TE transfer Max Rosenthal (msu) will be just as important to Illinois success (or more likely, lack thereof) as Sitkowski. It sounds cool to say we have two 4 star QBs in the room until you see who they are. That being said, Lovie made the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman and Bielema made the Rose Bowl with some random dude at QB who I can’t name, so it’s not going to make or break this thing.
MNW: Peyton Ramsey was pretty great.