Happy Saturday, Illinois Land!
It’s only happy for one reason: Illinois football already lost its Week 6 game yesterday.
We can watch good football today, blow some leaves or smoke a brisket. Whatever you decide to do today, do something that brings you joy.
The world is our oyster.
One thing I would recommend that you avoid at all costs is watching the press conference from Bret Bielema after his team was once again summarily embarrassed, at home no less, to a team in Nebraska that literally did everything in its power to hand Illinois the game.
Will Charlton with a dynamite recap of the implosion against the Huskers.
Bielema released “pissed off fan vibes” after the game, even literally pounding his fist on the podium describing the Illinois offense and the inability to get 18 inches several times in the game.
At first glance, you appreciate the fact that Bielema is overtly pissed off to the point of abusing lecterns.
When you think about it more, and use a critical lens, it’s absurd that the head coach continues to have postgame press conferences after yet another comprehensive beating and offers the same wrong solutions to the same obvious problems.
It seems like Bielema is incapable of getting his coaches to do what he needs them to do.
It’s insanity, deja vu and karma in one compact, inept package.
Illinois is an all-world play by QB Luke Altmyer in Week 1 against Toledo at the end of the game from being 1-5.
It looks like Altmyer’s play to secure that Week 1 victory was not a sign of things to come with a roadmap to success, but a signal that the map has been burned and discarded with the expired eggs and browned bananas.
Altmyer has eight INTs in 2023, the most any QB in FBS.
Illinois had 21 rushing yards against Nebraska. For the entire game. At home. With swirling 15 mph winds. No identity and no production all year for the offense.
The offense has been terrible since Bielema arrived.
Without a once in a generation talent at RB in Chase Brown last year, hitting on a transfer QB in Tommy DeVito and leading the nation in scoring defense, those eight wins would not have been even a remote possibility. More on this in a bit.
Brown is in Cincinnati, Ryan Walters is the HBC in West Lafayette and DeVito is practicing with the New York Giants.
They ain’t walking through that door.
You know who is walking through that door? Barry Lunney, Jr., the OC.
I am a glutton for punishment. Not only do I watch Illinois football 12 times a year, I also have an incessant need to provide context for specifically how terrible Illinois football remains, both historically and presently.
Bielema has been at Illinois for 2.5 seasons. Lunney has been here for 1.5 seasons.
Let’s take a look at point totals in Big Ten games, since Bielema arrived.
- 2021 (Tony Petersen as OC): 30, 17, 9, 0, 20 (9 OTs), 14, 14, 23, 47 = 19.3 PPG
- 2022 (Barry Lunney as OC): 20, 34, 9, 26, 26, 15, 24, 17, 41 = 23.6 PPG
- 2023 (Lunney): 13, 19 and 7 = 13 PPG
Northwestern has been putrid the previous two years. Remove those scores, and the aggregate PPG for Bielema in Big Ten play over 19 games:
- 2021: 15.8 (8 games)
- 2022: 21.4 (8 games)
- Lunney Total in 11 games (exclude Northwestern): 19.1 PPG
This. Is. Not. A. New. Problem. This. Has. Been. The. Case. Since. Bielema. Arrived.
I’m going to provide some scoring context, just so you can easily see how putrid this offense is under Lunney.
2023: Illinois PPG at 19.0 is 33% lower than the B1G average of 28.4 PPG. If you take the top half of the league, the average is 34.3, where Illinois is 44.6% below that mark.
In other words, through six games, Illinois would have needed to score AN ADDITIONAL 90 points this year. They have scored a TOTAL of 115. In six games
Isaiah Williams still has ZERO TOUCHDOWNS, despite being a Preseason First-Team All-Big Ten Team selection. How? Why? Who? So many questions with no answers.
The running game, or lack thereof, is arguably more alarming.
Illinois is sixth in rushing attempts (186), but only 8th in yards (127 YPG).
Here’s where the context is important: Altmyer has 172 rushing yards (28.6 YPG). Altmyer has 22.5% of the Illinois yards on the ground. He is not an option quarterback.
Reggie Love, III is the leading rusher with 257 yards, through six games. He’s on pace to be the leading rusher at 514 yards...FOR THE YEAR. He is now hurt again.
It is 2023 with a 12-game schedule, and Bret Bielema and Barry Lunney, Jr. may not have a running back eclipse 500 yards on the season.
Read the previous sentence again. Finish your Saturday morning beer.
The defense has not been great at point prevention, but the offense’s ineptitude and sheer lack of execution makes it a near impossibility to keep the points down. I think Nebraska started in Illinois territory at east five times.
There are no obvious solutions to any of these problems. Bielema and Lunney have answers in press conferences that sound great. They need to fix this shit. Now.
As the Honey Do List grows at my house, I tell my wife all the time, “Don’t worry, honey. I’ll get to it.” That’s fine for a broken door knob or hanging the latest family picture.
That’s not good enough for a $6 million football coach halfway through Year 3.
Bielema has been telling us for half a college football season “I’ll get to it.” Only, for this issue, he doesn’t answer to his wife. He answers to AD Josh Whitman.
The clock is at zero. Time has ran out. Action is the only remedy.
This is the worst the Big Ten is ever going to be, right now.
Forever. Not in a hyperbolic analogy, but factually.
Every team the conference adds next year can hang 40 (or more) any game.
Here’s at PPG so far for the incoming teams in 2023, with Illinois for comparison:
- USC: 53.6 PPG
- Oregon: 51.6 PPG
- Washington: 46.0 PPG
- UCLA: 32.0 PPG
- Average: 45.8 PPG
ILLINOIS: 19.2 PPG (only 138.5% below that average)
I’m as big a Bielema fan as there is, I truly am. If I take off my HBC-colored glasses and take a look at what has happened since the 7-1 start last year, it’s not only eye-opening. It seems like we are back to Lovie Ball, in a literal sense.
Here’s what that look’s like, since Illinois topped Nebraska 26-9 to get to 7-1:
- *Michigan State at home (16.5-point favorite): 25-13, LOSS
- *Purdue at home (6.5-point favorite): 31-24, LOSS
- *At Michigan: 19-17, LOSS
- At Northwestern: 41-3, WIN
- Reliaquest Bowl against Mississippi State: 19-10, LOSS
- Ended 2022 with a 1-4 record
- *Illinois clinches the Big Ten West winning any of these games
- Toledo at home (7.5 point favorite): 30-28, WIN
- At Kansas: 34-23, LOSS
- Penn State at home: 30-13, LOSS
- FAU at home: 23-17, WIN
- At Purdue: 44-19, LOSS
- Nebraska at home (3-point favorite): 20-7, LOSS
- Started 2023 with a 2-4 record
The last 343 days: 1-8 against Power 5 and 2-0 against Group of 5, for 3-8 overall.
- Illinois PPG in those 11 games: 19.8 PPG
- Opponents PPG in those 11 games: 24.5 PPG
If you take out Northwestern (extreme offensive outlier), here’s the other 10 games:
- 26.7 - 17.7 average score, an Illinois loss.
The problems are not new. The trend is not new.
Embarrassing does not begin to describe how bad its gotten for Bielema and Lunney, and you and me.
Traveling to Maryland for Week 7, Bielema is staring an 0-4 conference start in the face. Take Maryland and the points, and take the under. This is free financial advice.
Please take my scientific poll.
How many wins will Illinois football have in 2023?
This poll is closed
This is 2-4. This is 0-3 in the Big Ten. This is not a trend.
This is Illinois football.