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Can Illinois’ offense continue to develop? Probably.

Can the Illinois put it all together five more times?

NCAA Football: Illinois at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

I like the fight of this team.

After what we saw against Purdue and Nebraska, it was nice to see that fight back in all three levels of the game plan.

I think that there was a time when Maryland could have run away with the ball, but the Illini fought back.

There was a little bit of everything.

  • Long 44-yard TD to Pat Bryant
  • 4th and 1 goal line TD by Kaden Feagin
  • Isaiah Williams TD down the seam
  • Game-saving possession catch by Casey Washington

Every time we saw the Illini fail in the last two weeks, the tides were turned in our favor.

In the grand scheme of things, the offense was clicking. When looking at the season as a whole, this was probably one of the better games by an Illinois offense this year.

Take a look at the offensive player of the game.

Offensive Player of the Game

I think for starters, tight ends are generating a ton of positive offensive points added per play. But every starter on the offense had a positive EPA this game. I do not think that has happened all season.

For all the hate that this Illinois offense has gotten all season, this is one of the statistically best offenses we have had since 2009.

Note - All yards have been factored down to 7 games. Illinois had 1,200 yards on the ground in 12 games in 2008; this table would show that Illinois has 700 rush yards in 2008.

There are a lot of moving parts in this offense. Without sounding like a broken record, the offensive line is new (40 total starts amongst 6 players until this season), running backs are new (1 total start until this season), and the quarterback is new. Despite all this, this Illinois offense is ranked 57th in total offense amongst its peers, 42nd in pass offense, and 90th in rush offense.

Let’s break this down.

The offensive line and running backs had a total of 41 starts prior to this season. Using 7 players in that calculation, there was an average of half a season in starts, with most of the starts coming from 2 guys: Julian Pearl and Isaiah Adams. Half a season in for this group to be ranked 57th amongst its peers should be regarded as a positive thing.

This is all while being ranked 127th in Sacks Allowed and 114th in Tackles for Loss allowed. Illinois was 66th in Sacks Allowed and 86th in TFL Allowed with its last best offense in 2010.

This analysis could go down the drain if this offense fails to produce against Wisconsin on Saturday, but I think that there is a fighting chance, especially if Illinois forces the Badgers to play the way Illinois dictates.

Defensive Player of the Game

No other defensive player had stats of notice. The stats data I use only counts QB hurries, not QB Pressures like PFF does. But Seth Coleman clearly won this weekend with 3 sacks on the day.

Backup defensive end Sedarius (Sed) McConnell played well in replacement of an injured Keith Randolph.

Bottom Line

I don’t know. If Illinois plays like this for the rest of the season, I think 8-4 is possible. If Illinois plays like they did against Purdue and Nebraska, I think 3-9 is also possible.

In reality i think that both the offense and the defense continues to take positive steps and start to play more complementary football. A 8-5 or 7-6 finish with a bowl win would set this team up to end the season on a positive note.

This all starts this weeked with a win over Wisconsin.

Beat the Badgers.