Chase Brown brings his A-game every Saturday, and win or lose, he always produces. But a lot of college football fans haven’t heard of him, simply because he plays for Illinois. The Big Ten promotes Ohio State football at each and every turn, often bending, and sometimes even breaking, the rules in order to do so. With Michigan’s recent resurgence, the BTN fawns over and emphasizes them too. There is also a lot of love for Penn State, sometimes Wisconsin and Iowa, but to a much lesser extent, too.
Michigan State gets pub when they’re nationally relevant (only), and Nebraska most certainly would too, if their program wasn’t a dumpster fire right now.
But everyone else, including the Illinois Fighting Illini, sorry, you’re on your own in trying to get promotion, the Big Ten Network is always going to relegate you to the C or D blocks in their programming, because the league doesn’t really care about you all that much.
The unquestioned star of the team is Chase Brown, who is also currently the nation’s leading rusher, with 496 yards on 75 carries, good for a 6.6 yards per carry average.
But he’ll have to be Red Grange, Howard Griffith, Mikel LeShoure and Rashard Mendenhall combined in order to break into the Heisman Trophy conversation. That doesn’t mean the junior from London, Ontario isn’t getting national accolades.
Brown earned the Doak Walker National Running Back of the Week honor for games of the extended holiday weekend of Sept. 1-5.
He became the first Illinois back to ever open the season with 150 yards in consecutive games and then put up another 146 against Virginia the following week. Dating back to last season, he has four straight 100-yard games, the first Illini RB to do so since Reggie Corbin in 2018.
“We can only take a step forward from here. We can’t really live on this loss,” Brown said after the very controversial and undeserving week one loss at Indiana.
“It’s tough, losing by three points, but we’re going to learn from it.”
Regardless of what happens at other positions this season, the Illini have a great piece to build their offense around at tailback.
“Running backs need to fit into three categories,” Illini head coach Bret Bielema said last season as Chase Brown was coming off a career game, with the annual Homecoming contest approaching.
“They need to have speed, they need to have power and they need to have vision, and he has all three of those; and home run speed.”
Bielema said Chase Brown approaches the game very grounded in his preparation, regardless of any praise that the star tailback receives. (Although, like we’re saying, he doesn’t get as much as he deserves)
“So as he gets accolades, his mama did a good job to raise an incredible group of kids that are hungrier now that they have had success, to have even more in the future,” said Bielema.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGN, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune.