6-6. Literally all I — and probably, you — are asking for. A trip to the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl to play some Conference-USA team the day after Christmas on ESPN2.
You’d take that, right? I’d take it. I bet most of us would take it.
Other programs strive for national championships. If Wisconsin plays in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in 2018, it’s a massive disappointment. “Fire Chryst! Down with Hornibrook!” If Alabama wasn’t in the College Football Playoff, you know someone would say it. “Fire Saban!”
But if Illinois wins six (6) games and sent tens of thousands of fans of Illini Nation to Dallas in late December, we’d act like we just won the national championship. We’re building Josh Whitman a statue. It’d be, for lack of a better word, incredible.
And it’s what we deserve.
I was just scrolling through Instagram — I don’t have a very exciting life outside of this blog — and saw the post from Illini Football’s fifth day of training camp. It’s Cam Thomas and MJ Rivers, likely two backup QBs, embracing each other with a high-five at practice. It had several hundred likes after a few hours — and one comment.
“Come on boys. #WeWillWin”
Before I even opened the comment to see what it said, I had a feeling I already knew what it would say.
“Please, please, make this happen. #WeNeedThis”
As a current senior at Illinois, I only get one chance to be an undergrad at college, and I wasn’t going to waste it NOT supporting my school’s teams. (What would I do? Go to bars all day? They’re all closing anyways.)
But I haven’t seen a bowl game. I haven’t seen a NCAA Tournament (for men’s or women’s basketball). I haven’t seen a NCAA Tournament in baseball. And volleyball missed it once, too.
I’m not complaining, or asking you to pity me. It’s not like I’m playing on the field. But I see where a sense of lethargy might be coming into play. Losing can be fun for only so long. At some point, you want to see it turn around; you want to see results.
And if there’s a theme with our coverage at TCR as we near the 2018 season, it’s certainly that Illinois isn’t going to win many games. The Illini will win their first two and then struggle in the last 10, maybe beating Rutgers on the road.
Bluntly, that sucks. That’s not fair. Maybe we should be less negative and just say that “the Illini will win 8 games this season,” because why not? What do we have to lose? Nothing!
Of course, that’s not how this works. We’re trying to be realistic, and, where the program and rebuild is at, 3-4 wins is realistic.
But you know what that means?
Six wins is incredible. A .500 season will feel like a Big Ten Championship, even if it’s just a 3-6 mark in conference play. A bowl berth in a half-empty, run-down Cotton Bowl will feel like the Rose Bowl. Just because the expectations are low doesn’t mean we can’t hope. It’ll make all the victories that much sweeter.
Come on boys. We can’t keep waiting. Please, please make it happen. We’re behind you.
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