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Top Takeaways from Minnesota

Stop Shuffling Quarterbacks!

Illinois v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

1. “Hey, I’ve got a really stupid idea, how about we shuffle quarterbacks every other play? I mean, it’s a position that heavily relies on rhythm and timing, so shuffling quarterbacks is a clever way to make sure that neither Jeff George or Cam Thomas can get comfortable. Not only can we keep our young quarterbacks uncertain and uncomfortable, but by shuffling a passing quarterback and a running one, we can make sure all of Minneapolis knows exactly what play we’re running!” --Garrick McGee (probably).

I really hope that Lovie Smith continues his hot streak of finding diamonds in the rough on the recruiting trail, and that the offensive line truly grows into one of the more dominating units in the conference, because color me less-than-impressed with McGee’s offensive play calling and personnel schematics.

Let Cam Thomas be the starting quarterback, and don’t rotate him out. Illinois has to live with a true-freshman playcaller not understanding the full complement of plays? Isn’t the offense and defense already doing that at mostly every position? Also, in case this is a shocker, this team isn’t going to the Rose Bowl and has already committed to nurturing youth, so why would the most important position on the field be the outlier?

2. With Mike Dudek out with a knee injury, it’s possible that Ricky Smalling is the best offensive weapon Illinois has. This isn’t a surprise to people who followed his high school career at Brother Rice, but Ricky Smalling is an elite pinpointer of the football and can simply find the football better than defensive backs. He’s not a burner, but his routes have enough deception to put the cornerback on their heels and at that point, if the football is placed correctly, it’s a reception and we’re moving the chains. Over the past two games Smalling has had 182 yards and two touchdowns receiving, and has moved past Mike Dudek for the team lead in receiving yards. It’s nothing new for this season, which has showed Lovie Smith’s first recruiting class can be special, with bright spots at every level of both the offense and defense.

3. Injuries and youth have made the Illini defense completely incapable of stopping the run. Minnesota isn’t exactly Wisconsin on the ground, and they very literally didn’t have to throw a pass to move the ball and score on Illinois. Next up for Illinois? That same Wisconsin team that I keep referencing to disparage the running games of recent opponents. Freshman Jonathan Taylor (from New Jersey, an open market state that is continually ignored by Illinois) is going to run for 200 plus yards, the only question being whether he gets to that mark by halftime. It’s going to be an ugly Saturday.