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I’m thankful for this season

And it’s not done yet.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s not sugarcoat it: Illinois didn’t do its job down the stretch, and the Illini now won’t get another shot at Michigan next week in the Big Ten Championship.

That stinks.

And a 41-3 throttling of Northwestern on Saturday at Ryan Field doesn’t change that.

But I think the entire scenario I just laid out — which all happened — would have had most Illini fans ecstatic in August.

I remember driving down I-57 to the Wyoming game in late August. The car conversation focused on, “Do you think we can win today?” and “What will it take to get to six wins?”

Illinois didn’t just beat Wyoming. They manhandled the Cowboys, 38-6.

And Illinois didn’t just get to six wins (on Oct. 15). It got to eight. And you could make the argument this was a 10- or 11-win team (if a few calls went their way).

I understand the disappointment that comes with not getting to go to Indy next week. And for possibly wasting (I hate using that word, but it feels right) a historic season from Chase Brown, a top-five defense in the country, and the most consistent QB Illinois has had in a decade.


So many great moments this season that I want to look back on in the future, rather than think about what went wrong against the Boilers or the 4th-and-4 that Illinois couldn’t stop Michigan on.

And it all ended with taking the Hat in incredible and dominant fashion.

Again, the last fourish weeks didn’t give us the season we wanted, but with the expectations we had entering the year, this is probably the season we deserved.

Eight wins.

A decent bowl.

In the Big Ten West race until the final hours.

Yes, there is work to be done on the recruiting front. Bielema has to add some depth heading into the 2023 season, and who knows if Ryan Walters will still be on staff (come on, Deion! Go to Colorado!).

But if this season taught me anything, it’s that it’s still fun to like Illinois football and to believe in it.

And for that, I’m thankful.