When you have a defense like Illinois' that is young and lacking in depth and top-end talent, there are things you can do schematically to try to overcome your deficiencies. But you know what would really help a unit like the Illinois defense.
The ability to create turnovers.
It's an ability the Illini are severely lacking in so far this season. Through five games they've caused five turnovers, and that's not only the lowest number in the Big Ten, but it ranks 114th in the nation as well. Of those five turnovers only one has been an interception.
Yes, through five games the Illini leader in interceptions is Taylor Barton with one.
But a lack of interceptions isn't exactly a new trend with this team. No matter your thoughts on coaching or the defensive coordinators we've had over the years, picking off passes is just something the Illini aren't very good at. And Robert over at IlliniBoard did the math to prove it.
Robert actually went over team interception totals from the last ten years because he must have had a lot of free time on his hands, and he discovered exactly what he suspected.
Over the last ten years the Illini have picked off less passes than any other team in the country. In 126 games over that span the Illini have managed 83 interceptions. That's 0.66 per game. Boise State and Florida are tied for the most in that span with 194, or over two times as many interceptions than the Illini have managed.
Now, while I'd really like to see this stat as far as interception rate is concerned -- are the Illini really bad at intercepting passes, or is it just due to the fact opponents haven't passed nearly as many times against them as they have others -- I sure as hell am not going to do all that research, nor would I wish it upon Robert.
Either way, it's an alarming trend that has continued here for years and it's one that I'd really like to see change in the near future.
If it could start turning around next week against Wisconsin, that'd be great.