Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Illinois Fighting Illini Football is absolutely terrible.
At 1-2 with a very Nebraska-assisted win over Nebraska their only bulwark against 0-12, the Fighting Illini are searching for answers.
Meanwhile, in Fayetteville, Sam Pittman’s Arkansas Razorbacks have beaten the brakes off of an incredibly talented Texas team.
Why is this significant? Well, I’m glad you asked!
Pittman was the offensive line coach for the Razorbacks under Bielema as they went from 3-9 (0-8) in 2013 to 8-5 (5-3) in 2015. After overseeing this remarkable turnaround, Pittman bolted for Georgia. Bielema won 4 of his next 16 SEC games en route to a firing.
After Bielema’s replacement Chad Morris was fired two seasons into his tenure, former Arkansas players commiserated and then pleaded with the AD to hire Pittman as the head coach.
So far, its looks pretty good after a 3-7 SEC debut and a complete flogging of the aforementioned Longhorns.
Meanwhile, an experienced Illini squad was completely unprepared to defend the pass for the second week in a row under Bret Bielema.
Does any of this sound familiar? It should, because as Tim Beckman was rotating offensive coordinators at Illinois through 2012, his former subordinate Matt Campbell led Beckman’s former Toledo Rockets to a 9-4 record with a 6-2 conference mark. Eventually, Campbell would far surpass Beckman’s record at Toledo en route to a gig turning around Iowa State.
It’s a similar situation to the one Colorado found themselves in after hiring Boise State head coach Dan Hawkins. The Buffaloes thought they got the Bronco system that led them to prominence in the WAC, but in reality Chris Petersen led them to by far their greatest success as Hawkins left Colorado with only a legendary sports rant to his name.
At this point, my concern is not so much that Bielema will flame out (as an Illinois head coach, he was virtually preordained to do so) but that he’ll do so without providing us with a soundbite that good.
Anyway, better luck next time, Josh Whitman. And by “Josh Whitman” I of course mean whoever hires the next athletic director.
Prove me wrong, big guy.