You won’t find any stats in this article. Everyone knows Illinois has had a miserable two years under Lovie Smith and is toward the bottom of major college football in most of the important measurable statistics.
I get it. Bluntly, Illinois football currently stinks.
It’s not fun. NOBODY is having fun. 247’s Jeremy Werner had a great article about the few dozen remaining students sitting in Block I at the game Saturday night, and they were making the most of the situation.
But were those students having fun, like students will have at eight Big Ten schools this December and January at bowls? Probably not. It’s not the same.
Following Purdue’s win over Indiana on Saturday afternoon, every Big Ten school except Illinois and Rutgers has made a bowl in the past three years. Illinois last made a bowl in 2014 (Heart of Dallas) and
lost got demolished by Louisiana Tech. The current seniors at the University were freshmen.
So, what’s the point in all of this?
We know the narrative. Illinois fired Ron Zook, ended up with Tim Beckman, who was fired following the mistreatment of players. The Illini played under Bill Cubit for a season and a plethora of interim administration hired him to a two-year deal that basically ended any hope of Illinois being competitive this decade. Josh Whitman arrives, and he fired Cubit on his first day, hires Lovie Smith the same week, and Lovie has won five games since due to playing one of the youngest teams in the country and in the history of college football.
It hasn’t been fun, and, especially after Tito Odenigbo’s throwing of the flag and hitting the referee against Northwestern on Saturday, it honestly doesn’t feel like any corner has been turned.
But Chicago Cubs fans always found themselves saying: “Wait ‘till next year.”
And let’s be honest: next year likely won’t be any better. Non-conference games against Kent State and Western Illinois are likely gimmes, but nothing else is certain after that. Yet, just like Michigan was once bad (hey, it wasn’t that long ago), Illinois will once again be good.
At this point I really don’t have many more reasons for my explanation.
We’re suffering together right now, and I wish we weren’t. I’m a junior at the University, and I can only imagine how much more fun it would be to cover a perennial powerhouse with a Heisman candidate, etc. But we don’t have that, and all we have right now is Illinois football.
So, be patient, trust the process and just know that Illinois will eventually be good at football.
And if that doesn’t happen? Well, we have Brad Underwood.