Illini Football vs Cincinnati: brutally honest preview



I don’t mean to alarm you about Illini football, but consider this fact. Illinois won their lone FCS game last year, over Charleston Southern 44-0, in a season that saw them go 2-10, o-8 in Big Ten play.

In their lone game against a FCS opponent this year (last week’s opener versus Southern) the Illini were three yards and a two point conversion away from going to overtime. Scary thought. Of course, there’s that old adage about a football team makes its biggest strides in week two from week one.

Then again, Cincinnati will be doing the same.

At least the Illini football team did two things well in week one of 2013 that it did not do well in 2012- pass the ball and return kicks. Illinois was among the worst in the nation in kickoff returns and pass offense in ’12. And we saw a 100+ KO return TD and a career high 400+ passing yard game from Nate Scheelhaase in the opener.


Spread: Cincinnati -8


Tim Beckman Hot Seat Reading: (0=Coach for Life, 100=Nuclear reactor core): 84. At least it wasn’t Beckman who committed the inexplicable and inexcusable sideline interference penalty this time. Instead it was Defensive Coordinator Tim Banks. However, the decision to put in third string QB Reilly O’Toole so early, when the Illini football team was just two scores up on SIU is beyond explanation. O’Toole is just….I don’t think many Illini football fans will complain much if he weren’t to play much in the future.


Illini football analysis: Scheelhaase earned Big Ten offensive player of the week honors for going over 4 bills for the first time in his career. He may have found a go-to receiver in Ryan Lankford and second string running back Josh Ferguson established himself as a great pass catcher out of the backfield.

New Offensive Coordinator Bill Cubit breathed life into the air attack, and this Illini football team looks like one that could be fun to watch in ’13. As they will put up a lot of points and passing yards.

And that my friends, is where the well of optimism runs dry.

Defensive Coordinator Tim Banks could have to worry about his job security if these issues on defense keep up.

“The biggest thing we talked about this year was having poise under duress, particularly with all the young kids we have,” Banks said.

“The fact that they had a goal line stand early in the game, and finished the game that way, I’m proud. A team that doesn’t have poise would have folded, and they didn’t.”


“You hope that you can go out and pitch a shut out every game, but reality tells us it’s going to be a learning curve. My thing is we don’t want to make repeat mistakes,” Banks said later.

Linebacker Jonathan Brown looked really good on Saturday. The rest of the defense… not so much.

Illini football needs to fix a lot of big plays and unforced errors in order to compete this Saturday. The very young secondary will be on the spot; but it would help if they could get much of a pass rush up front.

Also, consider more usage of Aaron Bailey. More on that here

cincinnati bearcats cheerleaders

Cincinnati Bearcats analysis: They won the only meeting in the series 49-36 in the Queen City at the end of the 2009 season. And the talent gap between the two teams looks wider in this meeting than it did then. Still Vegas only has Cincy as a TD favorite; or thereabouts.

Illinois AD Mike Thomas previously held the same position at Cincinnati. So this is in fact the “Mike Thomas Bowl.” Cincinnati scored the last 35 points of the game in its season-opening win against Purdue. The Bearcats held the Boilermakers to just 226 yards of offense and destroyed them 42-7 last week. The Boilers played so horrible, or the Cincy defense played so well, depending on how you look at it that Purdue’s starting QB Rob Henry literally took to Twitter to apologize for his play.

“Well, that’s good for them,” Tim Beckman said about Cincy when he was told the score at the postgame presser in Champaign this past Saturday. All the media laughed.

There was a lot of Tim Beckman “listening face” going on in this presser.

Click here to see the Beckman “listening face” GIF from Big Ten Media Day. You have to click the picture to make it move.

For the Bearcats, they’ll have to gameplan for Aaron Bailey too. Of which there is little film out there. Here’s more on him


Brutally honest prediction: Cincinnati 52, Illini football 35.

I really like that other match-up this weekend between a Cincinnati football team (the Bengals) and a blue-and-orange team from the Land of Lincoln (the Bears) a lot better than this. (Preview and predictions of that one here) I think Cincy will dominate the line of scrimmage. The Illini let Scheelhaase get sacked four times last week; and they got to SIU QB Kory Faulker…zero times. The DL looked worse than last season, and the OL looked just as bad as 2012.

The secondary looked lost at times, and the defense was gashed for over 300 yards passing by a very mediocre FCS team. What will a good Cincinnati team do to Illini football? Probably make fans think that this will be another very long two-win season. Maybe three Ws. Purdue looks beatable.

Brutally honest record: 44-20

Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An analyst for 95.7 The Fan, he also writes on Chicago sports media for Chicago Now. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)

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