When discussing whether or not Illinois is a school that could ever become a football power in the Big Ten it's usually only a matter of time before I point north to Madison, Wisconsin to point out the proof that it can be done. Before Barry Alvarez took over the Wisconsin program it was a lot like what we have here at Illinois.
From 1896 to 1992 Wisconsin won a grand total of eight conference titles, including the first Big Ten title in 1896. Since 1993 the Badgers have won the conference six times, including the last three years. Alvarez instituted a system at the school that took advantage of the football talent in the area -- got a bunch of country strong farm boys in the area, use it to your advantage -- to turn the program around, and Bret Bielema continued that process in Alvarez's absence.
But now Bielema is gone, and there's uncertainty in Madison.
We don't know who will replace him, and it's hard to make any definitive statements about the future of the program until we do, but a change at Wisconsin could be beneficial to the Illini.
If Wisconsin regresses as a program it only makes life easier in the Leaders Division. Sure, there's still the giant elephant in the room shitting on everybody's head that is Ohio State, but that's just life. The Buckeyes will never be going anywhere.
As of now here's a look at the Leaders Division, and the current state of each program.
Ohio State -- Shitting on heads all day every day.
Wisconsin -- Currently without coach, is even considering bringing Barry Alvarez back.
Penn State -- Great year for Bill O'Brien and the Nittany Lions considering circumstance, but we still don't know what the impact of the NCAA sanctions will be in the long run.
Purdue -- Just hired a new coach from the MAC. That always works out.
Indiana -- Is still Indiana.
And then there's us. Only a year away from firing Tim Beckman and hiring the guy that will turn us into the new Wisconsin! Or probably not, I don't know.
But the second that Bret Bielema decided to take the Arkansas job the hierarchy of the Leaders Division beneath Ohio State became vulnerable. Here's hoping that the Illini can finally figure out a way to take advantage of it.