College Football Preview Series: the 32 teams we’ll cover this summer

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It’s already that time of year when this site shifts more into pop culture, media and entertainment mode. What did you think I did when there was no football and basketball? Well, Spurs vs Heat Finals? Yawn.Been there. Done that.

And the Blackhawks have obviously jumped the shark now. So hockey and NBA are both done for me for this season. That summer lull of dullness also means I start the way to early college football previews.

Here’s who we’re previewing and why. 32 teams just like in the NFL.
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Illinois Removing 2,200 Bleacher Seats from Memorial Stadium

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The University of Illinois announced today that they will permanently remove close to 2,200 seats from Memorial Stadium because they’ve outlived their usage. Illini SID Kent Brown said removal of the bleacher seats will drop stadium capacity from 62,870 to about 60,600.

These bleacher seats in the south end zone were intended to be temporary when they were installed 29 years ago.

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Illini Legend Red Grange is Big Ten Icon #1!!!

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Just announced today, the #1 overall sports icon in Big Ten history is…..Red Grange of the Illinois Fighting Illini! The man who was the Babe Ruth of college football and the NFL.  He even had a candy bar named after him; just like Ruth. Grange was named the greatest college football player of all time on New Year’s Day 2008, and he pretty much put the Chicago Bears on the map in the 1920s.

He was so big that required two nicknames, the “Galloping Ghost” which conveyed his immortality. And the “Wheaton Iceman” conveying the everydayness of this 5’10” 175 pound legend. [Read more…]

Will Super Bowl Make Rashard Mendenhall Greatest Illini Rusher Ever?

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For the second year in a row, the Super Bowl will have a feature back from the University of Illinois. This time, the Illini tailback is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Rashard Mendenhall;  who in 2008 became the first University of Illinois player taken in the first round of the NFL Draft since 1996.

14 years ago, UI produced the #2 (Kevin Hardy taken by Jacksonville) and #3 overall (Simeon Rice drafted by Arizona) picks. Hard to believe that team went 5-5-1. Mendenhall’s 4.45 forty time, ideal size at 5’11”, 225, a 33½ inch vertical, Shard has developed into a star in the NFL. The native of Skokie will burn by you, run through you and impress you with a last name that sounds like it should belong to a British aristocrat. Or perhaps the name of the English countryside mansion where that nobleman lives.

Mikel Leshoure is drawing all sorts of Mendenhall comparisons right now, as his draft stock is gaining serious momentum. But who are the other Illini rushers who made their presence felt in the NFL?

By Paul M. Banks

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Howard Griffith, Red Grange and Eight TDs in a game

It’s a funny story, really.

As much as everyone knows about former Illinois running back Howard Griffith’s record breaking 8 touchdown game against Southern Illinois, hardly anyone ever saw it.

It wasn’t televised and the only existing recording appears to be Illinois’ coach’s film. Memorial Stadium also wasn’t full that day, so the number of people that saw the game as it happened is actually even lower.

It was still one of the most memorable occurrences of Griffith’s life. [Read more…]

Mendenhall, Pierre Thomas Making Illinois Running Back U. (sort of)

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By Paul M. Banks

It hasn’t been the greatest season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it has been a very productive campaign for the man who usurped Willie Parker as starting tailback. This year Rashard Mendenhall is living up to the lofty expectations he had as a first round draft pick in 2008. The Skokie native and University of Illinois product is in the NFL’s top ten in both yardage and yards per carry.

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Sports Mt. Rushmore

By the TSB Staff

This Sports Bank collaboration is pretty self-explanatory. You’ve probably seen the bit on SportsCenter

PAUL M. BANKS

RED GRANGE: The Babe Ruth of football, along with Papa Bear Halas pretty much invented the NFL- America’s best loved league. He was so big he had two nicknames “Wheaton Iceman” and “Galloping Ghost” en route to becoming professional football’s first megastar; nothing more blue and orange than this Bears and University of Illinois legend.

WALTER PAYTON: I once got to have lunch with Sweetness back in 1994…perhaps the best day of my life during the mid-90s. There is only one true NFL’s all-time leading rusher and it’s not the guy who over extended his career as a re-tread in Arizona.

DERON WILLIAMS: Check out my exclusive with D. Will for an explanation of why my man-crush made it to my sports paragon.

OZZIE GUILLEN: I take pride in the fact that pro sports’ biggest nut-job leads my favorite all-time team and resides right here in Chicago. In a world filed with “we’re just taking it one game at a time,” “you dont want to get too high after the wins or too low after the losses,” and “somebody needs to step up,” a man who makes jokes to reporters about beating his wife, getting high at Allman Brothers concerts and destroying the contents of his office (all with a few @#$% and %&&* throw in for good measure) is a welcome departure. Anyone who Mad TV tries to parody, but can’t because the real thing is way more outrageous and absurd sounding than any possible spoof is legendary. Then there’s his record as a player and manager. We’ll never @#$ing forget 2000 and %^&in 2005!

Honorable mentions:
Deion $anders, Rashard Mendenhall, Frank Thomas, Papa Bear Halas, Bruce Weber, Pat Fitzgerald, Rocky Wirtz, Ryne Sandberg and Kendall Gill

PETER CHRISTIAN

Kirby Puckett– post career scandals notwithstanding, he is the reason I am the sports fan I am today.

Randy Moss– The greatest individual Viking player I’ve ever seen in person. Love me some Randy.

Kevin Garnett– He was to Minnesota Basketball what Michael Jordan was to the NBA.

Lou Nanne– The man has devoted his life to Minnesota hockey since he was 21, he is the greatest advocate for the sport in the state.


DAVID K.

Brett Favre- His head should really be three or four times bigger than the others.  Nobody will ever replace Favre as my favorite athlete of all time.  Although I would really be okay if someone called Tommy Lee Jones and he brought that mind eraser thingy from Men In Black and zapped this past season out of my memory bank.

Dwyane Wade- Words cannot express how fun my senior year of college was because of Wade.  His triple-double against Kentucky in the Elite Eight will go down as the single greatest performance I have ever seen at a live sporting event.  He has already won an NBA Title, NBA Finals MVP Award, an Olympic Gold Medal, and on top of all that, he’s from SICA!

Ernie Banks-
Since I need a Cubs representative on my Mount Rushmore, it has got to be Mr. Cub.  Mark Grace is my favorite Cubby of all time, but just does not seem Mt. Rushmore-worthy.  Banks does.

Dominique Wilkins- I would insist the sculptor give Nique the high fade from the late 80’s to make my Rushmore look that much sweeter.  The Human Highlight Film is probably the most innovative dunker not named Dr. J. and was my favorite basketball player prior to the arrival of D-Wade.  I cried when he was traded to the Clippers.  True story.

Honorable Mentions: Eric Davis (the former Reds OF, not 49ers CB), Grace, Wayne Chism (just because his yamika-style headband would look awesome in chiseled rock form.)

MELISSA S. WOLLERING

Sports Mt. Rushmore = Jim Brown, Babe Ruth, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Tiger Woods

Reason – To become forever immortalized in stone on a mountain, you must make a significant contribution to both sports and the world at-large for years to come.  Otherwise, you get no bling on a geographic marker in the States.

honorable mention: Jack Nicklaus, Jim Thorpe, Carl Lewis, Michael Jordan, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron.  Seriously, if Mt. Rushmore could fit 5 heads, Thorpe or Lewis get a spot.