Ranking ’12 Illini football AWFULNESS among other TERRIBLE Illinois teams

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The state of Illinois football has long been declared a disaster area. FEMA will be sending aid soon to clean up the wreckage created my Superstorm Tim Beckman. Actually, the true creator of this mess is Athletic Director Mike Thomas, but that’s another column for another time. Clearly, Beckman is in way over his head, and Thomas had no clue what he was doing when he hired him.

I’ve seen NFL mock drafts with four Illini defenders being taken in the first three rounds. And what has Beckman been able to do with that talent on defense? 31.5 ppg against. second to last in the Big Ten.

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Illini offensive line among worst ever

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Tim Beckman isn’t the only reason the Illinois Fighting Illini are completely atrocious this season. Sure, he’s the main reason; as he’s clearly over-matched every week and in over his head.

However, the main driving force behind the Illini being awful is the complete ineptitude of the offensive line. More than halfway through the season, the Illini are dead last in the Big Ten (and a very weak Big Ten at that) in rushing yards per game and also dead last in sacks allowed. They can’t open holes nor can they protect the quarterback.

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Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase tries to hi five referee, fails (video)

Early in the Illini Badgers game Saturday, Illinois had a lead. It didn’t last long as the Illini lost 31-14. But after scoring, Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase tries to actually hi five the referee. The zebra knows better than to do something showing allegiance like that, and Scheelhaase stumbles as the ref leaves him hanging.
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Illini coach Tim Beckman caught chewing on sidelines; NCAA violation

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Here’s a multi-media gaffe for you. Getting caught by television cameras with chewing tobacco when you’re a college football coach. And chew at practices and games is a NCAA violation for  players and coaches.

That’s what happened with Illini coach Tim Beckman, who apologized for it after his team got destroyed by the Wisconsin Badgers 31-14 Saturday.

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Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Wisconsin Badgers: Brutally Honest Preview

The Illinois Fighting Illini and Wisconsin Badgers have a lot in common in 2012 and it’s not a good thing. Most notably is the unexpected and disappointing starts  for both teams. Neither team looked half-decent against non-conference foes and both lost their Big Ten openers.

The Illini’s new head coach Tim Beckman could already be on the hot-seat and the Wisconsin Badgers are without any kind of identity on the offensive side of the ball.

Let the battle of the Big Ten’s Legends Division begin.

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Why is Illinois so bad at football?

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The Illinois Fighting Illini are 2-3, but those two wins came courtesy of a MAC and FCS team. They’ve been absolutely destroyed by every FBS team they’ve faced this season, even getting routed at home by a non power conference team in Louisiana Tech. In their three losses, the Illini have surrendered an average of 44 ppg.

Yesterday, Illinois, not Penn State looked like the team on sanctions with nothing to play for. The Nittany Lions didn’t gain many more yards than Illinois, but they didn’t make all the mistakes that the Illini did. PSU can’t go to a bowl, but looked like a bowl team. Illinois looks like 3-9, 4-8 at best. Considering that Illinois still has talent on the roster how did this happen?

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Illini vs. Washington at Soldier Field in 2013

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University of Illinois Director of Athletics Mike Thomas announced that the Fighting Illini will play the Washington Huskies at Soldier Field in Chicago on Sept. 14, 2013. It will mark Illinois’ second game at the historic home of the Chicago Bears.

“This is a great opportunity for our football team to play in one of the most historic football venues in the nation,” Thomas said. “Soldier Field is in an incredible location that will allow our fans in the Chicagoland area and from around the state an opportunity to watch the Fighting Illini take on an outstanding Pac-12 opponent in Washington.”

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#54 Illinois Fighting Illini: College Football 77 in 77

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The Illini started to get defensive, real defensive in the 2010 Texas Bowl. In that 38-14 trouncing of Robert Griffin III and Baylor, they held RG3 and the Bears in check.

The man who would win the Heisman trophy and become the #2 overall pick in the NFL Draft the very next season was out of rhythm, out of sync versus the Illini in Houston. And that D carried over into 2011, when they Illini had a top 10 national defense.

A lot of that was the personnel, a lot of it was coordinator Vic Koenning, who unfortunately had to move on when Ron Zook was replaced by Tim Beckman.

Can they keep it going this fall, despite the coaching changes?

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Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase: should he keep his job?

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In the 2012 Illini spring game, they seemed to have the same exact issue that they have during the final seven games of 2011- throwing the ball forward.

Perhaps part of the spring scrimmage m.o. was to hold back that part of the offense, but then again it’s a preseason exhibition why wouldn’t you let it fly?
Unless it’s simply because you can’t?

And the statistics for starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase were extremely putrid that rainy Saturday, continuing the regression that he showed the final seven games of 2011.

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What we Learned from Fighting Illini Football Spring Game

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A small select group of things are certain in life- death, taxes, and Fighting Illini football seasons ending up much different than what you expected in the preseason. Last year’s team wasn’t expected to really do much- Yet the finished 7-6 (despite a very difficult schedule) and with a quite decisive bowl victory.

Conversely, in ’08 and ’09, expectations were sky-high heading into September, yet both of those teams flopped (and that’s putting it nicely). So what about this year? Expectations are kind of mixed, “up in the air” you might say as this year’s squad competes to become the first team to reach back-to-back bowl games since 1992.

And that’s fitting, because the 20th anniversary of the 1988-92 teams that made five consecutive bowl games will both be celebrated during the weekend festivities. If Red Grange and Robert Zuppke presided over the “Golden Years,” of Illini college football, then surely the Jeff George/Jason Verduzco/John Mackovic teams were the “silver era” of the program’s history.

That said, let’s begin the journey this fall to finding out whether or not this team will match the ’92 squad’s accomplishment.

By Paul M. Banks

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Fighting Illini Spring Football Game Preview

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Now that Mikel Leshoure left the Illini early for the NFL Draft, (and who can blame him really? He will be one of the first three running backs taken next week) Illinois college football is now headlined by sophomore QB Nathan Scheelhaase. It’s his team. And if he continue to makes strides like he did from the season finale to the Texas Bowl, things will be fine.

The 15 extra practices between the Fresno State loss and the 38-14 domination over Baylor did wonders for Scheelhaase as he completed his first 13 passes, played his best game of the season, and easily could have been co-MVP with Leshoure in that game. Even though Leshoure’s game was really quite special.

Something to really keep an eye on Saturday is Scheelhaase continuing to develop chemistry with wide receivers Ryan Lankford and Darius Millines.

But you won’t get to see the heir apparent to Leshoure at the tailback position. Jason Ford will not go Saturday.

By Paul M. Banks

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2010 Illinois Football Season: the Official Exit Interview

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Back in June I gave an interview to collegefootballzealots.com previewing the upcoming University of Illinois college football season. I was pretty negative and pessimistic.

And it takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong. So I guess that makes me roughly the size of Jon Asamoah then because I was wrong about a few things. But fresh off a return from the Texas Bowl victory, here’s my exit interview for the same site; recapping the season.

By Paul M. Banks

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