Illini Football Fans Finally Have Nice Things Again Under Lovie Smith


If you’re an Illini football fan, I don’t need to remind you of history, especially recent history. Ditto for Illini basketball fans. The Mike Thomas-Tim Beckman/Bill Cubit-John Groce era did a number on you. Up until a few weeks ago the Josh Whitman-Lovie Smith-Brad Underwood era gave the previous era a “hold my beer.”

Given that, it’s understandable for an Illini revenue sports fan to think and feel “why can’t we have nice things?” Or perhaps the sentiment is the same as the title to C. Montgomery Burns’ autobiography “Will there ever be a rainbow?” Well, it finally stopped raining! And yes, you can have something nice- a bowl game vacation, most likely in San Francisco (Redbox Bowl) or New York (Pinstripe Bowl).

It seems like a corner has finally been turned.

Something happened during that #FakeRally and covering the spread against Michigan. Whatever that was, it carried over to the next week and Illini football is undefeated since.

As their opponent is Bye Week on Saturday, they are guaranteed to stay undefeated for at least one more week, and a 7-5 finish seems in the cards, and such a final record seemed unfathomable when Illini football was 2-4, with an ugly loss to Eastern Michigan on the resume.

This is definitely something I didn’t see coming, but I did say after the first couple games that having Brandon Peters as the quarterback gave the Illini more of a chance than they’ve had in recent years because Peters is by far the best quarterback that Lovie Smith has had in Champaign.

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And as you might have heard, having a QB matters a lot in football.

Also, if you haven’t seen it yet, junior wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe and sophomore defensive back Sydney Brown were named Offensive and Defensive Co-Big Ten Players of the week for their performances in the epic 37-34 comeback win at Michigan State.

In the largest comeback in school history, Imatorbhebhe, Peters (369 yards, 3 TDs), and company took MSU’s No Fly Zone and made it deregulated laisezz-faire commercial air space.

Imatorbhebhe had four receptions for a career-high 178 yards and two touchdowns, the most receiving yards by an opponent at Spartan Stadium since 2000 and the most by an Illinois player ever in the 47-game series history against MSU.

His 37-yard reception on 4th and 17 on the Illini’s final drive was a game saver. His nine touchdown receptions this season are tied for the third-most in program history, and with one more he’ll tie the school single-season record of 10 (Brandon Lloyd in 2001), (David Williams in 1985).

illini basketball

As for Brown, he had 13 tackles and a career-high two interceptions, the second if which he ran back 76 yards for his first career touchdown during the Illini’s 27-point fourth quarter. It was the second-longest by an opponent in the 96-year history of Spartan Stadium.

Illini football lost some key play-makers in the preseason; then additional important pieces during the season. However, new heroes have been made, proving the program has a lot more depth than in recent history.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC and Chicago on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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