Today is August 1 which means that we are almost through the offseason. Yes, that's right, before this month is over we will have seen the Illini play a football game. Yep, we're only 30 days away from the season kicking off against Southern Illinois, which means it's about damn time I began doing some season previews, isn't it?
This is the first of those previews, and there will be a preview of some sort every weekday from now until that first Saturday of the season.
Our first preview will probably be the shortest one of the season, too, because it's about Illinois' first opponent: Southern Illinois. Southern Illinois is an FCS school, and in all honesty, I don't know all that much about them. Oh, I've done some research, but would you believe that there aren't hundreds of articles on the internet about Southern Illinois football?
I know, I was surprised too.
But I was able to get some information on the Salukis for you, just so you know a little something about one of the teams we'll actually be favored against this season.
Name: Southern Illinois Salukis
From: Carbondale, Illinois
Conference: Missouri Valley
2012 Record: 6-5 (5-3)
Returning Starters: Eight offense, Five defense, Both specialists
The Salukis are coached by Dale Lennon who is going into his sixth season with the Salukis and has a record of 35-23 at the school. His .603 winning percentage is the second-highest in school history, and he has led the Salukis to the FCS playoffs twice. The last time was in 2009 when they reached the quarterfinals.
History With Illinois
Southern Illinois last came to Champaign in 2010 and took it's 35-3 spanking before returning to Carbondale with a nice check. This year's game will be the fourth meeting between the two schools, though just the second since 1991. Every game has been in Champaign. The Illini are 3-0 in the series, winning by an average score of 40-16. However, the first meeting was a bit scary, as the Illini could only manage a 28-25 win in 1985.
What Do We Know About The Offense?
Not a whole lot, really. I know that overall things just didn't look very impressive last season. The Salukis averaged 123 rushing yards per game last season, which isn't terrible, but it took them 38 rushes a game to get there. That's an average of 3.2 yards per carry, and that's not good. I also know that SIU likes to run anyway, because there was only one game last season in which it ran the ball less than 34 times. If you take away that game against North Dakota State the Salukis carried the ball an average of 40.1 times per game for an average of 134.4 yards per game. Or 3.4 yards per carry. So it's an improvement?
Then there's the passing game, which isn't much better. The Salukis threw for an average of 173 yards per game while completing only 58% of their pass attempts. All of this en route to averaging 22 points per game.
How About The Defense?
The defense last season didn't appear to be all that bad based on the numbers. The allowed only 19 points per game while the run defense gave up only three yards per carry. Where this team seemed susceptible was in the air, as opponents didn't throw for a ton of yards (211 per game) but did complete nearly 61% of their passes.
The Salukis did average 3.1 sacks per game, though, so that could be problematic for the Illini.
Who On This Team Should I Be Aware Of?
The best player on the team would seem to be tight end MyCole Pruitt. He was a fourth team FCS All-American last year. On defense the best player is likely linebacker Bryan Presume. Presume had 78 tackles to lead the Salukis last year.
There's also a player on the roster you may recall from the Big Ten and recruiting battles. Mik'ail McCall was a member of the 2011 recruiting class from Dolton, Illinois that had an offer from the Illini but ended up committing to Iowa. Well, he's no longer at Iowa, as he's SIU's starting running back.
Can The Illini Win This Game?
They fucking better. Obviously, losing to an FCS team to start the season would not be ideal. I mean, with the Illini I'm not going to guarantee anything, but this is probably a game you shouldn't feel the need to worry about.