Kofi Cockburn (B1G Preseason POY) Must Take the Leap this Season

Preseason awards are what they are- it’s like when you meet someone in college and they tell you that they are “Pre-Med” or “Pre-Law.” So take them with a grain of salt, but Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year is still indeed B1G POY and shout to to Kofi Cockburn for claiming it just now.

Although I was not invited on the media panel to vote for it, so again, how much stock do you want to really put in the award? Or any Big Ten award that I was somehow, someway left out of voting for. That said, I would voted for the Illini junior center anyway!

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Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball 2021/22 Season Preview

There is going to come a point, maybe we’re even there already, when Illinois Fighting Illini basketball, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, is going to feel like Chicago Cubs baseball 1909-2015. Or the White Sox 1918-2004. Or the Red Sox 1919-2003.

For whatever reason, it’s the 2nd round that seems to be where Illinois basketball is snake-bitten. They have lost in this exact round nine of the last 19 times, including the last three. They have not advanced past this round since the famed Champaign Campaign of 2004-05.

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Bret Bielema Apparently Really Motivated His Illini This Week

You have to credit Illinois Fighting Illini coach Bret Bielema, as it appears the controversial remarks he made at the start of the week have apparently motivated his team. No matter what you think of the remarks he made on Monday, or how he handled the fallout on Thursday, the result speaks for itself.

Illinois just won on the road, at a top ten ranked team, for the first time since 2007 when they upset #1 Ohio State. Illinois won a 9-overtime, yes 9 TIMES (Dean of Students Ed Rooney voice) contest at #7 Penn State, 20-18. Yes, you read the that correctly- two Big Ten teams entered, one emerged victorious, and only one team reached 20 points.
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Exclusive: Drew Valentine on Stopping Ayo Dosunmu, Kofi Cockburn

The Loyola Ramblers scored one of the college basketball season’s biggest upsets, when they knocked the #1 seed Illinois Fighting Illini out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round. For the Illini, it continues a long frustrating “tradition” of failing to advance to a March Madness round that has a nickname (Sweet 16, Elite 8 etc.), as they haven’t reached one since 2005.

For Loyola, it showed what a mid-major can do to a bigger power conference team when you have an astute coach with a great game plan, and players who can execute it.

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Chase Brown Lone Bright Spot for Illini in Rough Homecoming Defeat

Here’s where you have the ultimate test as a writer- find something positive to say about the Illinois Fighting Illini Homecoming loss to Wisconsin. It was 24-0 on the scoreboard, but much uglier than that sounds overall.

However, Chase Brown brought his A-game. It’s just too bad that Illinois was so awful in every other aspect, hence they weren’t able to utilize him more. He finished with 35 yards rushing on eight carries, and two catches for five yards receiving. While that is certainly nothing to write home about, consider this- he accounted for more than 40% of Illinois’ total offense.

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Illini Look Absolutely Brutal in Ugly Loss to Wisconsin Badgers

Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Bret Bielema emphasized all week that he would like his program to follow the blueprint of the Wisconsin Badgers, whom he led to a 68-24 record from 2006-2012. Wisconsin has only missed missed a bowl game since 2000, won the Big Ten West six times and the league three times this millenium.

“For us to get to where we want to be,” Bielema said. “I’ve defined [Wisconsin] as a model for what we’re trying to be.” he said at his weekly Monday presser. As today showed us, they have a VERY LONG way to go, as the Badgers dominated them 24-0 on the scoreboard and 484-93 in yardage.

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Bret Bielema Bowl: Illinois vs Wisconsin Game Preview, Prediction

Get ready Illinois Fighting Illini fans- this game is the one that’s been circled in red marker ever since the schedule came out. It’s not just Homecoming, and a divisional contest, it’s also the Bielema Bowl, as the Illini head coach will face the program where he first established himself for the very first time.

Bret Bielema goes up against Wisconsin, the program he led to a 68-24 record (37-19 in the Big Ten) So let’s get fired up, paint our faces, put our big boy pants on (consult athleticunderwear.com for more on that) and preview the biggest game of the year in Illini land.

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Illini Gray Ghost Uniform, Red Grange Anniversary Approaching

red-grange

(Flashback piece with Homecoming clash against Wisconsin approaching, but Illinois will NOT be wearing the Gray Ghost uniforms this time, game preview and prediction here)

Sunday brings the 96th anniversary of Red Grange’s historic Homecoming performance against Michigan in the Memorial Stadium dedication game on Oct. 18, 1924. In that game, the Gray Ghost scored four touchdowns and racked up 262 total yards in the first 12 minutes, then ran for a fifth touchdown and threw for a sixth to lead the Illinois Fighting Illini to a 39-14 victory in what many consider the greatest single-game performance in college football history.

Grange himself, is considered the best player, all-time, in the history of the college gridiron.

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Illinois Fighting Illini at Purdue Boilermakers Game Preview

purdue boilermakers

Purdue is favored by double digits at home versus Illinois and that’s very understandable, but consider this fact: Since the start of the Tim Beckman era and onward of Illinois football, the program has only gotten two wins or more against three league programs not named Rutgers.

Purdue is one of those, as the Illini have beaten them thrice over that span. They got win number three over Nebraska in week zero with Michigan State being the other team in the group. So Illinois has a real chance here.

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Catching Up with Illini, BBQing Legend Rocky Harvey (EXCLUSIVE)

When the Illinois Fighting Illini hosted the very first game of the 2021 college football season, August 28 versus Nebraska, the atmosphere was amazing. I’m sure you can guess the artist on this quote, one which perfectly summated the Memorial Stadium and Grange Grove mood:

“there’s an air and of happiness and this is the prince’s new definition of summer madness.” Yes, we kicked it old school, with a little Fresh Prince reference, and we continue our Throwback Thursday motif by catching up with Illini legend Rocky Harvey.

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Kurt Kittner on Why He Left His Illini Football Radio Gig (EXCLUSIVE)

In the middle of wrapping up my exclusive with Kurt Kittner, an overzealous autograph seeker proclaimed, quite loudly, he was in the presence of the greatest quarterback in Illinois football history.

Kittner was one of about 15-20 members of the 2001 Big Ten title team under a tent in Grange Grove that morning signing autographs when this loud super fan approached the table. That specific Illini fanatic is not wrong! Kurt Kittner is the school’s all time leader in touchdown passes, by a wide margin, and he finished his four years in Champaign just three yards shy of the Illini career passing yardage mark.

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Brandon Lloyd Gives Blunt Take on Recent Illini Coaches (EXCLUSIVE)

Brandon Lloyd provided high praise of Illinois Fighting Illini Coach Bret Bielema, describing who he is and what he can do. During our exclusive conversation, Lloyd said Bielema is the first Illini football coach to bring these attributes to the table since Ron Turner, who was his coach at Illinois.

Which implicitly says that, well, Ron Zook, Tim Beckman, Bill Cubit and Lovie Smith simply didn’t have these attributes. We caught up to Brandon Lloyd at halftime of the Illini season opening win over Nebraska. The second leading receiver in Illinois football history was on hand as part of the 20th anniversary reunion and celebration of the 2001 Big Ten title team.

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