A tradition unlike any other.
Football season is upon us. And a new season brings hope, no matter what colors you wear. The Fighting Illini athletic program has had the decade from hell and the fanbase is hoping and clamoring for a mere average season, maybe even a bowl game. But what if we dared to dream again? What if we reached for more.
Positivity, hope and “Joining the Fight” is the motto around these parts these days. Well, if we are going to join the fight we may as well try to win the damn thing.
This is how Illinois wins the 2020 College Football Playoff.
Lovie Smith’s sorcery solves the defense. Of course, how could we have been so blind! Lovie has been growing this beard to impart magic and wisdom onto this defense. Now that he has harnessed the power of his beard and gotten full control of the defense, he should have no issue turning this into a top-40 unit. Dumbledore, Gandalf, Lovie.
For the first time in school history, transfers exceed expectations. Basketball and football alike have seen countless incoming transfers with sky high expectations, only for them to fall incredibly short. Lovie & Co. are counting on grad transfers, especially on offense. These guys need to surpass the hype of the offseason message boards.
Isaiah Williams is Kyler Murray from Day 1. C’mon, this one isn’t even a stretch.
The Illini kick it off against Akron on Aug. 31, and the first half reminds of Illini fans of non-conference games littered throughout the 2010s. An unimpressive start leaves Illinois down 17-14 at halftime. A strong second half gets the Illini a 38-24 victory, but the doubt has crept deep into Illini nation after only one week.
UConn and EMU are stress free blowouts, a sight for sore eyes for Illini fans. More importantly, Illinois is 3-0 in the non-conference.
The Illini and Brandon Peters (oh yeah, he won the job), open up Big Ten play at home against Nebraska. And while Peters didn’t impress much in the first three weeks, he absolutely torches an unprepared Nebraska secondary in the first half for three touchdowns. That leaves plenty of open room for the offensive line and Reggie Corbin to put the game away in the second half.
Illinois takes care of the Fighting Flecks relatively easily, partially due to the fact that PJ insisted on suiting up for the game and playing every single snap at left guard to show his boys the intensity he was looking for.
Illinois is 5-0 and Michigan is coming to town for a primetime matchup. Newfound Illini legend Brandon Peters goes down with an injury on the first drive of the game and you can hear a pin drop in Memorial Stadium. Enter Isaiah Williams. Michigan’s top-ranked defense has no film on Williams and isn’t prepared for Rod Smith’s gameplan with the 5-star freshman. The Illini run for 300+ and knock off the Wolverines.
Over the next four games Williams takes over the offense and Reggie Corbin begins to put his name firmly in the Heisman race. A grind-it-out win vs. Bucky, a shootout victory against the Boilers, the second string takes care of Rutgers, and a surprisingly dominant performance against Sparty has the Illini at double digit victories.
By this point the national media is both confused and furious. They discover Lovie has a beard and is still coaching football, but they still can’t get a half-way interesting quote out of him. The debate rages on ESPN for 10 straight hours every day whether Illinois is actually good or if the Big Ten West is actually bad.
The Illini head to Iowa City. And lose. Because, come on, it hasn’t happened this millennium. What? Did you think this was just going to be rainbows and sunshine? This is a real exercise people.
Northwestern comes to Champaign sitting in second place in the Big Ten West with a record of 7-4 overall and 6-2 in conference — because that’s just so Northwestern. They’re feeling high and mighty with a chance to go to the Big Ten Championship again. This decade of football has the purple cats feeling cocky coming down I-57 and they pay for that immensely. The Illini win 49-13.
Illinois plays one-loss Ohio State in the championship game and is an eight point underdog. Nobody is giving them much of a chance and expects tOSU to return to the CFP. During a season where Reggie Corbin, Isaiah Williams and Rod Smith stole the show, it would be Lovie Ball that reigned supreme in Indy. Two defensive touchdowns lead the Illini to a Big Ten Championship.
The Illini are selected to the College Football Playoff alongside Clemson, Alabama and Notre Dame. The first round witnesses orange-on-orange crime as the Illini take out Clemson who has multiple players on the defensive side of the ball sitting out of the game to preserve their NFL Draft stock.
Notre Dame somehow manages to defeat the Crimson Tide in the other semifinal matchup. It’s Lovie Smith vs. Brian Kelly in the championship game. The Wise Wizard vs. The Angry Leprechaun. While Notre Dame alums all over the Chicagoland area continue to constantly remind Illini fans how the Irish use real gold in their helmets, and gloat with a confidence of a team that has already been crowned, the Orange and Blue sit quietly. Hoping. Waiting.
It’s a low scoring, nerve-wracking affair all the way into the fourth quarter. ND kicks a field goal to take the lead with 3:27 to play. Superstar freshman Isaiah Williams is is a household name by now, and not only does he put his team in field goal position, but he scrambles for a 27-yard touchdown with 42 seconds to play. Illinois wins the College Football Playoff National Championship, 24-20.
Mostly it’s confusion across the country.
Students riot all throughout campus and the university is forced to cancel classes for a week. Thirteen cars and two fraternities are burned in celebration.
KAM’s makes so much money during the week that they are able install functioning plumbing, and invest in mops.
Lovie shocks the world and retires and rides off into the sunset. Rod Smith takes over and looks to turn Illinois into a dynasty.
And most importantly, Illinois sports is back.
Here’s hoping. Happy football season. Oskee Wow Wow.