2018 Alabama is one of the most dominating football machines in modern day history. Bama was also tied with The Citadel, 10-10, at halftime, before eventually winning 50-17. The game was never in doubt, but granted the circumstances, The Citadel wasn’t embarrassed.
Iowa was 6-4, coming off three straight losses, isn’t Alabama and just beat Illinois 63-0!
When I previously stated, “the circumstances”, I imagine you (the reader) were able to immediately imagine all the ways that The Citadel wouldn’t be a match for Alabama. I don’t really need to list them out to prove a point, they’re Susie Alexander’s Lemonade Stand trying to take down Amazon. But what are “the circumstances” around Illinois being 63-0 outmanned by an Iowa team that they share a conference with?
Youth? Come on. Illinois is young, but they’re not Champaign Middle School young. Resources? Yeah, Iowa has more money because they’ve been a competitive program since Kirk Ferentz took over sometime in the 1960’s. But Illinois is in Iowa’s conference, in the same division, and on a decently even playing field. If you consider the variables that amount to a successful football program, there isn’t too much slanting in Iowa’s direction.
And yet, 63-0.
And still, no answers.
The defense couldn’t stop said fictional Champaign Middle School. And even scarier, Lovie Smith, who was considered a defensive wizard at the highest level, has literally repeated that he has the right scheme and just needs to figure some things out. So where does the team turn going into the decisive fourth year of the Lovie Smith regime.
I’m all ears, because I really don’t see a path to this succeeding anymore, but I know it needs to start with an upgrade at defensive coordinator, and hopefully that guy can instill a little pride. I’m not sure how you bring competitiveness to this team, and I throw that at the feet of the uninspiring head coach. The snark being thrown around on Twitter by former players speaks to a larger sickness, but this unit is awful and needs a complete revamp. Let’s put some lipstick on this orange and blue pig and find a defensive Rod Smith.
Even then, what’s the ceiling? Or would Josh Whitman just be kicking the can down the road? Illinois needs better talent across the board, and needs that talent to mature. Illinois needs its defensive scheme to match the quality of its offensive scheme, and it needs to be repeatable for multiple classes at a time. Years ago when Lovie was hired, it felt like Illini leadership finally found its guy and was willing to put the resources and patience behind this thing to make it work. Well, we’re in prove it mode just three years in because of the uncompetitiveness of this regime.
The Citadel hung in with the best team in the land for a half of football, and the “Fighting Illini” laid down on Senior Day, willingly martyring themselves at the tail end of the 2018 season.
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