The Illini, who have lost four of their past five games are really going to have to dig deep this weekend. They can ask their new head coach Tim Beckman about digging deep because he was caught digging his fingers into a can of chewing tobacco before their contest in Madison. There has been no word yet about whether or not he will be punished, but a sanction for chewing tobacco is the last thing Illinois needs right now.
Saturday they will face No. 25 Michigan on national television. This is the third time this year that the entire United States will have the joy of watching the Illini get pummeled on live television.
It’s no question the Illini have been banged up all year and have missed guys like safety Suppo Sanni and quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase for a couple of games, but they have still been an enormous disappointment. The Illini have let up an average of 28.3 points per game and have scored an average of just 21.2 points per game.
The Illini looked surprisingly sharp in the first half against Wisconsin, but their enthusiasm faded as the Badgers began to pile on points. Their eventual loss knocked Illinois to a 2-4 record including an 0-2 conference record. Beating Wisconsin on their home field would have put the Illini in the drivers seat in the Leaders Division knowing that Penn State/Ohio State are ineligible for postseason play.
There’s really no hope to salvage this season as the Illini could potentially lose out. After Michigan, they face a much-improved Indiana team who nearly upset a strong Michigan State team. Then, Illinois travels to Columbus where they face the No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes. Their next game after OSU is likely their most winnable when they face Minnesota at home on Dad’s Weekend. Maybe they’ll get a win for the Dad’s? In their second to last game they face Purdue, which is considered a contender for the Leaders Division title and will most likely be favorites in this game. Finally, they travel to Northwestern for their last game of the season to play a team that has surprised everyone this year.
The small sliver of good news is that Illinois still has three home games to play and they are certainly winnable (or were once considered winnable).
If I am completely wrong and the Illini upset Michigan/Ohio State, they beat Indiana/Purdue/Minnesota (at home) and they squeeze out a win against the Wildcats then things will get very interesting. We will have to look at Wisconsin and see if they were able to hold off the States (Michigan State, Ohio State, and, Penn State). To be blunt, if I played quarterback for every other team in the Big Ten, Illinois still wouldn’t win the Leaders Division.
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