Saturday, October 04, 2008

Big House = Big Game

I've been a bit slow this week, trying to move past my visit to Wrigley on Thursday. The weather was beautiful, the company was fabulous, the seats were incredible (second row of the left-field bleacher), and I didn't have to watch the replays of the errors. Other than the game, it was a great night.

But as the Cubbies fade into their traditional post-season form, the Illini are still defining who they will be this year. We know a few things:
  1. The offense is exciting and very talented.
  2. The defense needs to work on the basics.
  3. The Illini schedule isn't as friendly as it was last year, with both Penn State and Wisconsin on the road.
  4. I've been to Pasadena to see 1-loss USC play, and while I look forward to going back, I'd love to visit Florida or San Antonio about a week after Christmas, just to see what it's like that time of year...

And I think that this week we will learn a lot -- like just how good the offense is and if the defense can learn to consistently stand up the opposing team. Michigan all of a sudden looks really good after their comeback at home against the Badgers last week. But they are still getting to know Rich and their new system. They are quickly improving, as you would expect any team with a coach of that caliber to do, but the Illini are better than many people think.

I must admit that those College Game Day guys really do know what they are talking about. They correctly pointed out -- as did one of our readers -- that the Illini losses are against top teams. Mizzou is at #4 this year, and looking to roll at Nebraska today, and #6 Penn State can practice their road skills against Purdue's weak defense. At the end of the day, our losses will probably look pretty good. And, Lee and Kirk made the point that Juice, Benn and company averaged 33 points in those losses. They picked the Illini this morning, and while their picks mean little, it was nice to get national recognition for what they've done so far this season.

Today's game at Ann Arbor is a big deal for both teams. Michigan has the opportunity to prove they are making real progress or that the second half of last week's game was a blip to preview what may be coming in the next few years. And Illinois can prove that they really do compete against top 10 teams -- and beat everybody else. This game is a big question mark in the Illinois schedule, and a win here would show that Zook's boys are establishing themselves as consistent Big Ten contenders.

There's no question that the Illini are capable of beating the Wolverines. They've shown they can compete on the road in a crazy stadium. The Illini just need to limit mistakes, and take nothing for granted.

Go Illini!


<< Home |

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?