Friday, August 29, 2008

Let the Season Begin!

Football season is (finally) upon us! The Illini will face off against Mizzou in what will likely be the most interesting game of the first Saturday of the 2008 college football season. The Edward-Jones Dome in St. Louis will host a 50/50 (or 60/40?) crowd.

Missouri is ranked #6 (AP) or #7 (USA Today) and has a strong core of 2007 starters returning for this season, including potential Heisman Trophy candidate QB Chase Daniels. They spent a few weeks ranked #1 last season, but missed out on a BCS bowl. They have national title aspirations to go with their 8.5 point advantage in the spread in the opener.

Illinois is ranked #20 (AP) or #19 (USA Today). We are ranked at the beginning of the season! And the Illini have solid starters returning, including Juice Williams at QB. According to last year's graduating seniors, many of the new starters are more atheltic than those they are replacing. But the Illini are waiting to see who will fill the gaping holes in the intangibles, like leadership, attitude and perseverance. But expectations are sky-high, and why shouldn't they be? We played in the Rose Bowl, after all! The Fighting Illini are coming off one of the greatest turnaround seasons ever, capped off with a surprising and competitive Rose Bowl performance. And while we may not make it back to Pasadena, a New Year's Day bowl is possible.

And both teams remember the 2007 meeting. Mizzou took a big lead, but even with Juice on the sidelines, the Illini staged an impressive comeback to fall just short of beating the Tigers when McGee threw and interception in the end zone as the clock ran down. And that was when expectations for the Illini were still just aimed at a winning record and a bowl of some sort.

What will this year bring? Mizzou has the advantage in many categories, but the Illini have a lot to prove. Watch for Juice, Regis, Martez and Vontae to go all out to prove that the Illini are NOT just a one-year wonder, but a program on the rise. I expect a competitve game, and I believe the Illini are very capable of pulling the "upset."

I look forward to the first look at the 2008 Fighting Illini football team -- and the best Week 1 QB matchup in the country.

Go Illini!


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