ESPN College Gameday: How it Went From Transcendent to Unwatchable

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To pinpoint what’s so wrong with ESPN College Gameday in 2017, there are a couple different places from which you can start. You can begin with ESPN’s horrible bungling of the Jemele Hill and Robert Lee situations, and go from there. The same principle, that of “let’s try to never hurt anyone’s feelings ever, no matter what the cost, because hurt feelings means upset sponsors” applies across the board.

ESPN should have never apologized for what Jemele Hill said about Donald Trump.

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Illinois Football: Mike Epstein Emerges at RB as Homecoming Trip Approaches

mike epstein

Google Illinois football player Mike Epstein, and one of the first links to emerge is the Wikipedia bio of the 1960s-1970s Major League Baseball pitcher. Until you actually click on the biography, and read the very first sentence, you won’t believe the nickname this gentleman had during his MLB playing days; which spanned eight years and five different clubs.

Mike Epstein the former first baseman won a gold medal with USA baseball at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

In other words, he’s a very accomplished athlete, and Mike Epstein the Illinois football player could well be on his way to carving out his own legacy too.

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Illini Football: Mike Dudek Comeback Truly an Uplifting Story

MIKE DUDEK

Illinois Fighting Illini Wide Receiver Mike Dudek told a story late Saturday night about the trouble he had getting into Memorial Stadium. He told a security guard: “hey, I’m on the team,” because the venue worker didn’t immediately believe him.

At first glance, in street clothes, it’s a mistake one might make due to Dudek’s somewhat diminutive frame. However, if you see him up close, with his arm muscles on display, then you know this cat’s a big time a football player.

Dudek’s arms are a major gun show, which then leaves one wondering how this security guard could have made such a mistake.

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Chayce Crouch Needs to Be More Illini Kyle Orton than Rex Grossman

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History exists so that we may derive where we are going based upon where we have been. Saturday night brought the first green shoots of growth in the Illini football garden that head coach Lovie Smith has planted. The roots have taken hold, and a very commanding 20-7 win over Western Kentucky conveys the first real signs of true progress within the program.

Quarterback Chayce Crouch will be a major factor in determining the pace and the magnitude of that progress. Smith said at B1G Media Day that “Chayce is our quarterback,” and at least partially, it’s an allusion to his days as Chicago Bears head coach, during the period when you had a Kyle Orton versus Rex Grossman position battle.

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Illini Football Found Lovie Smith Style Identity in Upset Win

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Maybe Illini football under Lovie Smith is now ready for prime time?!

A year ago at this time (in week two), Illinois hosted North Carolina under the lights and the result was a blow out loss to the Tar Heels. After that game, Smith remarked that he thought the team had been ready for prime time heading into it, but clearly the results conveyed otherwise.

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Illini Football Game Preview vs Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

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Despite being out-gained by 159 yards, Illinois was somehow able to eek out a 24-21 win over Ball State on opening day, and thus “the streak” survives. Yes, big picture takeaway from week one is that Illini football now has 20 consecutive home opening wins, the fourth-longest active streak in the nation behind only Florida (27), Oklahoma State (22) and Wisconsin (22).

The Illini are 90-33-5 all-time in home-openers. “The streak” began with a 48-22 victory over Middle Tennessee State in 1998, a game memorable for two reasons. First, it ended the program’s 18 game losing streak, which inspired the crowd to storm the field and climb the goal posts. 

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David Diehl on War Chant Controversy, Illini Outlook This Year (Exclusive)

David Diehl lives and works in New York City these days, but the native to Chicago’s South Side (Brother Rice graduate) knows that the key to an Illini football resurgence lies in consistently recruiting Chicagoland. It was also a big part of the winning formula for Diehl’s 2001 team, the last Illinois squad to win the B1G title.

It was the same answer Dick Butkus gave, when we spoke to him in June, as it was also the blue print to Butkus’ Illini Rose Bowl team. Diehl played his entire 11 year NFL career with the New York Giants, where he was the starting left guard on two teams that beat the New England Patriots in two Super Bowls.

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TSB Show 8: Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson, Dave Kerner, Smashing Pumpkins Jimmy Chamberlain

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TSB Show 8 is here, and it’s another star-studded line-up. CBS Sports hosted a national media conference call with CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus and the Network’s lead college football announce team of Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson along with studio analyst Rick Neuheisel. On the call I asked a very well informed question about Illini football and Lovie Smith, and the reaction was….well, we covered that in detail at this post.

Dave Kerner from WBBM News Radio Chicago was up next, and we covered the reaction I got from the national guys on that conference call. We also talked Cubs, Bears and Northwestern. It’s just too bad he wasn’t at the Ryan Field new concessions food tasting with me.

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Illini Football, Lovie Smith Laughed at During National Media Conference Call

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CBS Sports hosted a national media conference call yesterday with CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus and the Network’s lead college football announce team of Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson along with studio analyst Rick Neuheisel. On the call I asked a very well informed question about Illini football and Lovie Smith, and the reaction was….

…well, they pretty much acted like I asked them about a division III school or something. Their boisterous laughter conveyed just how irrelevant they believe the program to currently be.

You can play the audio below for yourself.

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IlliNation Show 7: Urban Meyer, P.J. Fleck, FOX 32’s Rafer Weigel

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Illination Show Seven was about as meaningful, exciting fun and informative as we’ve ever been. The extravaganza begins with Minnesota Golden Gophers Head Coach P.J. Fleck, spinning yarn on well, a whole lot of stuff. The Gophers going from Tracy Claeys to Fleck, from a media skills stand point, is like trading in Cheese Whiz for a finely aged brie.

Next up is Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer in a serious conversation about the future of the sport of football, which is relevant to his own household, given that his kid plays ball. 

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2017 Illini Football Season Preview and Predictions

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Illini football fans are traditionally a notoriously fickle bunch but this past year seems to have taken that to a new level. Just one year ago at this time there was a ton of optimism and buzz surrounding the program, as the hire of Lovie Smith breathed new life into the struggling organization. The hype culminated in week two when Memorial Stadium saw its first non-conference sell out in several years, but unfortunately the result of the game was disastrous for Illinois.

The Illini followed that up with another home blowout loss the very next week, and then the great check-out began. Illini football fans left the bandwagon in droves as last year’s squad stumbled to an awful 3-9 record, and put a product on the field that was severely lacking in entertainment value.

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IlliNation Show 5 Featuring Pat Fitzgerald, Malik Turner, CBS 2’s Jeremy Ross

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We yet another action packed podcast for you this week! IlliNation Show 5 begins with the worst soundbite of all from B1G Media Day, and that honor went to Ohio State’s Chris Worley. Then we transition to Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald, who reflects on his early days when he first took the job.

For Pat Fitzgerald, the beginnings of his tenure at NU were similar to Lovie Smith at Illinois, in that year one was actually year zero, and year two was actually year one.

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