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You betcha! Illinois football ain’t going nowhere

We can’t be stopped now. Bad boys for life?

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Guys. It not’s happening. It already happened.

Illinois football has gone from Big Ten doormat to West Division favorites seemingly overnight.

Illinois is going to win the Big Ten West.

Here’s why.

The best thing about the swift turnaround is that it’s not luck. It’s not fortune. This Illini football team is smothering opponents on defense and running it down their throat on offense.

A sight for sore eyes is Illinois football actively trying to win. The Illini were 4-for-4 (100%) on fourth down Saturday. Aggression is the better part of winning. They are being forthright with it. Head coach Bret Bielema will give OC Barry Lunney a “quatro” call, meaning that Lunney knows he has four downs to work with. It’s been wildly successful and ultimately frustrating for the opposition.

The aggression on offense being coupled with the ultra-aggressive defense makes Illinois football a three-headed monster.

Chase Brown leads the potent running attack. He is no doubt Batman. His Robin, sophomore Josh McCray, has been out since Week 0. McCray should be back after the bye.

It looks like Illinois QB Tommy Devito is doing his best Russel Wilson-at-Wisconsin impression.

The defense, led by dynamic and young DC Ryan Walters, held Minnesota to only 14 points. That is actually misleading due to long second half kickoff return that put Minnesota on the doorstep one play away from a TD.

Running away with it.

Chase Brown is a legitimate Heisman candidate.

How do I know this? CBS broke away from its national coverage of the Alabama/Tennessee game to show a graphic with Chase Brown and Michigan RB Blake Corum. Heisman logo was visible, and the award was the reason for the comparison.

Also, this:

Brown won’t be close to winning the award regardless of what he accomplishes on the field. He plays for Illinois. Let’s not get carried away.

Brown opened the scoring against Minnesota with a 40-yard TD reception up the sideline. 41 carries for 180 yards and three receptions for 43 yards.

Illinois’ offensive line plays together and plays hard, but let’s not get confused. Brown does not have the same semi-tractor sized holes that Corum enjoys in Ann Arbor. Teams know that Brown is going to run it down their throats, and they can’t stop him.

The Illini defense dominates...again.

A few weeks ago, Illinois held Wisconsin to just two rushing yards.

Minnesota had six completions for the game. Illinois had two receivers catch more balls than that.

Illinois DBs caught three passes from Minnesota quarterbacks. Dominant air defense.

Chattanooga v Illinois
Illinois DC Ryan Walters is doing genius level coaching in 2022. At 36, he may be the hottest coaching candidate in the country.
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Here are the FBS Rankings for Walters’ defense. This is everyone in FBS, as a reminder. I need to say that when you see this list.

  • #1: Scoring defense, Total defense, Pass Efficiency Defense, Interceptions
  • #2: Passing defense
  • #3: Rushing defense
  • #6: Sacks

Walters will pick an area of your offensive game plan and take it away. Just like that. Where did it go? You don’t know and you can’t find it. It’s just gone.

The simplistic strategy by Walters to have 3 basic calls and variations off of those calls makes it nearly impossible for offensive teams to diagnose the proper coverage pre-snap. Minnesota used multiple shifts and motions early in the game Saturday to try and ascertain what they were looking at from the defense.

Minnesota isn’t an eye candy offense. This is the out-of-character stuff that a Walters-led defense will get you do to.

He even takes away your identity.

DeVito’s big time performance makes it a 3D attack.

With “Big Time” Tommy Devito gaining comfort at his new school and with his new school’s new school OC, Barry Lunney, the third dimension took shape as BTT shredded the vaunted Minnesota defense.

Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports and Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The stat line: 25-of-32 for 252 yards and one TD (QB Rating 154.6).

In today’s college football world those numbers seem pedestrian. This speaks to the infancy of the Bielema program, as much as it does the production of DeVito. Illinois needs better horses in the stable to run with the thoroughbreds.

DeVito was accurate, discerning and intelligent in the win on Saturday. Late in the first half, after Illinois held the ball for nearly nine minutes, OC Barry Lunney called for a fade on 3rd-and-1. It was not there. DeVito simply threw the ball away.

Discretion is the better part of valor.

This is now a three-headed monster. Get your hotel room for Indy right now. It’s going to be Ohio State against your Fighting Illini for the Big Ten title.