At this point, most people are aware of the University of Central Florida claiming themselves to be NCAA National Champions after capping off a perfect 13-0 season with a win over Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
While the success of UCF is well deserved, I think it’s time we all take a look at why perhaps an unexpected name should be thrown into the National Champion conversation: The Illinois Fighting Illini.
The Illini may have been closer to a winless season than an undefeated season, but one of the team’s two wins may be enough to put a ring on Head Coach Lovie Smith’s finger.
Illinois began its season with a tough 24-21 win over the Ball State Cardinals. The momentum from this victory was easily carried into the Illini’s next game under the lights against Western Kentucky. Thanks to a strong overall performance, not only did Illinois pick up a 20-7 victory against the Hilltoppers but they may have done enough to name themselves NCAA Co-National Champions.
I know what you’re thinking, how is this possible? Illinois didn’t win another game after beating Western Kentucky, but the Hilltoppers did, in fact, pick up an important win of their own after playing the Illini.
In the second to last week of the regular season, Western Kentucky took down Middle Tennessee in a triple-OT game that helped secure its team a bowl game. Well, this victory over Middle Tennessee was a big deal for Illinois because earlier in the Blue Raiders season they took down Syracuse University 30-23.
NOW, this is when things get really interesting. The Clemson Tigers only lost one game during the past regular season, and do you remember who it was against? That’s right, the Syracuse Oranges in week seven beat the Clemson Tigers 27-24.
Oh boy, well the path to a Fighting Illini National Championship is easy from here.
The Clemson Tigers beat their Tiger brethren in Auburn University in week two. And of course, the Auburn Tigers have beaten both National Championship teams… The Alabama Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs.
Just to recap Illinois beat:
Western Kentucky who beat...
Middle Tennessee who beat...
Syracuse University who beat...
Clemson who beat...
Auburn who beat...
Alabama and Georgia
All right, there you have it. Start them hashtags and phone the mayor of Champaign, because the Illinois Fighting Illini are your Co-National Champions.
In all series, from all of us at TCR, enjoy the close of another college football season.