After punting on the first drive of the game, these were Illinois' next possessions:
- 10 plays, 71 yards - Field Goal
- Fumble on Punt Return
- 2 plays, 75 yards - Touchdown
- 7 plays, 64 yards - Field Goal
- 2 plays, 16 yards - Interception
- 5 plays, 92 yards - Touchdown
- 6 plays, 64 yards - Touchdown
- 5 plays, 22 yards - Punt
- 5 plays, 86 yards - Touchdown
- 7 plays, 82 yards - Touchdown
- 14 plays, 72 yards - Field Goal
- 3 plays, 4 yards - Punt
- 3 plays, 21 yards - Touchdown
In the 14 times that Illinois got the ball, it scored 9 times, turned the ball over twice, and punted 3 times.
This is the type of Illinois football that we haven't seen in a long time. Sure, we got the occasional 80-plus-yard drive, but with John Paddock taking snaps, we are now scoring on 64% of drives.
Continue this, and you are right there playing alongside the high-scoring offenses in the Big 12 and Pac-12.
Bring in the last series of the Minnesota game, Paddock’s offense is scoring points on 67% of drives. Prior to that Illinois had scored on 30 of its last 108 drives.
That is less than 30% of drives all season.
To say that we need to ride Paddock’s hot hand against Iowa isn't even a question. This offense is operating at an efficiency we have not seen in years.
Case in point.
Illinois, despite its defensive struggles, was on its way to scoring 80 points, and on Illinois’ 27-point run, Illinois was straight-up dominating.
This is the Illinois we should have been seeing all season. This is the Illinois that could have been 8-2 right now, with the Iowa game on Saturday deciding the West.
Regardless of how Saturday goes, if Illinois can keep this momentum rolling, it can carry it into the offseason. There is so much to build off of and with the core of this offense returning next season, there is a lot to be excited about.
John Paddock Makes this Offense Hum
Pat Bryant - 10.55 Predicted Points Added
Casey Washington 16.08 Predicted Points Added
Isaiah Williams - 14.6 Predicted Points Added.
and Johnny Legend - 24.8 Predicted Points added.
Luke Altmyer’s best performance was against Toledo with 20.25 predicted points added and was averaging 15 predicted points added per game.
Against Iowa, you have to ride the hot hand, especially since you have a very capable quarterback on the bench, in case you need him to play.
I can finish the offense section without mentioning the offensive line. Altmyer was getting sacked 4 times a game. Paddock was sacked once. That is a massive improvement from the last 9 games. That, along with holes opening up for Reggie Love III (8.28 PPA), shows what a healthy offensive line with experience can do.
Illinois is now the third-best passing offense in the Big Ten, has three receivers in the Big Ten top-20, and a top-30 passing offense against Power 5 teams.
In November, Illinois has the best passing offense by more than 100 yards per game in the Big Ten and is the 8th-best total offense in the nation. In October, Illinois was the 98th-best total offense.
The defense, however could use some work.
This is what I expected to see all season — Newton, Jacas, and Randolph dominating the line of scrimmage, with Coleman and a linebacker adding to the tally.
This secondary has always needed some work. Illinois ranks in the top three for passes defended and passes broken up but dead last in interceptions in the Big Ten.
There is a pattern that is developing.
As I had predicted at the beginning of the season, Illinois' gameplan is to stop the run and pressure the QB. To do this, Illinois is placing seven men in the box. Unfortunately, this is exposing the young secondary, as opponents are passing the ball more often in the first and second quarters. To adjust, Aaron Henry is then bringing the linebackers away from the line of scrimmage to help out the secondary, exposing the defense to longer runs, allowing a yard more per run in the fourth quarter compared to the second quarter.
To fix this, Illinois will often move away from a man-to-man and run a zone defense to ensure that there is a player in every gap.
But that is where the problem lies. Illinois is built to run a nasty man-to-man defense. When you have four new-to-role players, this much variance on defense causes mistakes to pile up and the players result in more thinking and less playing ball.
This is resulting in Illinois scoring defense ranking 101st out of 133 teams.
This actually makes Saturday interesting.
You have Illinois’ 101st-ranked scoring defense playing Iowa’s 123rd-ranked scoring offense.
And you have John Paddock’s 23rd-ranked scoring offense playing Iowa’s 2nd-ranked scoring defense.
The non-moving force against a permeable object and a new dynamic force against a brick wall.
This will be a game where the team that commits the fewest errors win.
Illinois 3 - Iowa 1.
Keep the West championship alive.