Illinois Football Daily Bullets

Illinois Basketball Daily Bullets

Monday, September 24, 2007

Illini starting to get some national media buzz trickle!

Well, that's what a surprising 3-1 start will do for you! Yep, Illini fans, there are some good signs in the national media. Way down in Alabama, the Birmingham News is reporting some serious buzz on the Illini and Ron Zook! Did you ever think you'd read this quote:

"Watch out for Ron Zook"!!!!!!!!

I can't believe it! It's finally happening!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

OPEN THREAD: ILLINOIS vs. INDIANA

Okay, here it is.....THE BIG TEN! Here's Illinois' chance to really change the recent trend of futility that has been "Illinois Football". I'm still not fully convinced that this team is ready for primetime. So, as a result, I'm predicting a 28-14 defeat for the Illini. Why? I think the Hoosiers will be able to pass at will when it comes to the quick, over the middle, slant route that Illinois seems to have so much trouble defending. Also, Indiana has a turnover ratio of +6 this season......and that could spell doom for the Illini. Trust me, I hope that I'm wrong here. I was wrong about the Syracuse game, to be sure. But this is a whole 'nother league (literally).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Weber hires Jerrance Howard as assistant coach

Well, the wait is over, and we now know who is going to replace Tracey Webster on Bruce Weber's basketball staff. It's going to be former Illini Jerrance Howard. Man, I have to tell you-- IlliniNation has some big time Debbie Downers! Already, people are lambasting Weber on the message boards and on the radio airwaves, talking about how this was a "bad hire." Give the guy a break! He's only won more basketball games in the last 4 seasons than anyone else in the country!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What they're saying about the Illini heading into the Big Ten

Here's a rundown of what they're saying about the Illini heading into the Big Ten:

1. Mark Tupper (Decatur-Herald & Review) writes a glowing article about the Illini post-Syracuse. He comments on how explosive the offense was, and how Juice seems to be coming in to his own. The one thing he doesn't address-- Juice's inability to find consistency in the passing game.

2. John Supinie of the Peoria Journal-Star writes about how the Illini are officially "trolling for a bowl". He points out that a win Saturday at Indiana would mean the Illini are halfway to bowl eligibility with 3 wins. Since they'll likely be favored later in the season against Ball St., Minnesota, and Northwestern, the possiblity of 6 wins seems well within grasp. That's IF, of course, they can beat the Hoosiers on the road Saturday.

3. John Decker from HoosierNation.com writes an article titles "5 days and counting" that breaks down some numbers going into Saturday's Indiana/Illinois Match-up. He places focus on Juice Williams' 60.5% completion rate so far this year, and also makes mention of the 8 true freshman who have played so far this year for the Illini. To be sure, he also mentions the number 2-- the total number of Big Ten wins the Illini have achieved in the last four years.
He also makes mention of how Illinois is 10th in the Big Ten in turnover differential, at -4. That number is a result of the 5 turnovers they experienced vs. Mizzou. Thus, his conclusion is that Illinois isn't really turning the ball over every game a ton-- but at the same time, they're not forcing turnoves either. Contrast this with Indiana's turnover ratio of +6. Yep, the Hoosiers have forced a total of 5 interceptions and 5 fumble recoveries in the first three games. If that trend continues, it's going to be lights out for the Illini on Saturday.

Well, that's about all that's cookin' within the sports media on Tuesday before the Indiana game. So far, we're not getting much media attention beyond the usual local coverage, and the mandatory Chicago coverage. Look for things to pick up if Illinois beats Indiana. If that happens, the Illini are suddenly a true turn-around story.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

OPEN THREAD: ILLINOIS vs. SYRACUSE

You're chance to post what's on your mind about the Syracuse game.

Why do they bash on Zook so much? Pat Forde of ESPN calls Zook "worst hire" of 2004!!!



Well, Pat Forde published a "slam" article against Ron Zook this week. I can't understand why so many people treat Zook like a punching bag. I think it all goes back to that infamous website that a "Debby Downer" Florida fan started as soon as the Gators hired Zook. I don't know. In my opinion, though, here's the case FOR Zook:

1. The guy can recruit, right up there with the best of them. There's no doubt about this one.

2. He has loaded the Illinois program with coaches much like himself-- they can all recruit just like he can. Mike Locksley deserves a lot of credit for snagging Aurrelious Benn and some of the other offensive stars that are wearing the Orange and Blue.

3. He's attempting to run the program with integrity. That's right-- he wasted no time in kicking Derrick McPhearson and Jody Ellis off the team when they were caught stealing laptops by Champaign Police.

4. He's demanding a high level of performance from his team, in only his third season-- despite still being in the midst of a HUGE re-building process. Yep-- Zook has put his foot down this season, and he's calling out players by name when they don't perform.

Some minor complaints about Zook:

Okay, we didn't really want to go here, but here are two minor complaints about Ron--

1. He runs up and down the sideline like a frenetic maniac throughout the entire football game. Wasn't it Vince Lombardi who talked about "Grace Under Pressure?"

2. He has the team do some sort of crazy "swinging gate" thing every time they kick an extra point. We just don't get this maneuver! I mean, why not just kick the extra point! Let's get the fundamentals down pat, and then, maybe, every once in a while, we can do something resembling a trick play.

All in all, those are minor complaints. I guess Zook is the Rodney Dangerfield of college football coaches. But, that is only to Illini outsiders. To IlliniNation, he's getting closer and closer to a blue-chip coach.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Illini vs. Syracuse -- are the Illini any good?


Well, the Illini pulled off the victory last weekend against Western Illinois. But they weren't exactly convincing, were they? I mean, sure, they won the game. And the defense looked good. But they struggled SO mightily in the passing department, that it left you to wonder-- Will they win 6 games this year and go to a bowl after all?

This weekend's battle against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome is the perfect test for this young Illini team. They're facing another program that has been struggling in recent years. Yep, that's right, on paper the Illini look like they should win this game.

What should you be looking for as you watch the game on ESPNU? Here goes the list:

1. The Illini NOT to suffer from cramps during this dome game, like they did in St. Louis against Mizzou. Zook claims that the Illini staff figured out why the Illini were suffering from those cramps, and claims to have a remedy in place. What exactly was the problem in St. Louis, Ron? If it was "drink more water", we could have told you that one before the season started!


3. Don't look for Aurrelious Benn to pull a Keyshawn Johnson and start hollering for Juice to "Just throw me the @#%$# ball!".....at least not yet. Benn has been getting about 7 or so touches per game in the first two of the season. The Illini coaches would like for him to get 10+. Illini fans? They'd like for him to get about 30!

4. Illinois to sadly, lose in a close one at the Carrier Dome. Don't be fooled by Syracuse's 0-2 record-- they played two really good teams in Iowa and Washington. I'm predicting a 24-10 loss tomorrow......with the Illini once again struggling mightily in the passing game. Honestly.....I really hope I'm wrong here. But this team still has a lot to prove.

Can't wait for the game!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sports Illustrated beats the drum -- "Illinois Basketball In Decline!"

There is a very comprehensive article in SI-online by Luke Winn that paints a devastatingly bleak picture of the Illinois basketball program's future prospects. Whew, it is a really depressing article.

Nevertheless, we here at Illinispace maintain strong faith in Bruce Weber. He will lead Illinois back to basketball glory, there is no doubt about it.

Unfortunately, the Debbie Downers in IlliniNation will probably wave this article like a red flag, whining and crying and wailing.

I can't wait for the season to start, so that we can start talking about results on the court!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Illini SHOULD win big against Western Illinois....that's SHOULD (just ask Michigan about "should"....)


Well, it's a 6 p.m. kick-off tonight at Memorial Stadium against the Leathernecks, and that's probably a good thing, 'cause it's supposed to get well into the '80's today (with humidity). It should start to cool off by game time, though. Besides a hot, humid afternoon of tailgating, what else should we look for today out on the field? Here's ten things to look for during the game today:


1. Juice Williams will start the game, and more than likely, he'll play the whole game, even if it's a blow-out. I'm just guessing here, but I think that the coaches want to get Juice's confidence back up after last week's injury. According to the local media, he had a strong week of practice, and is looking sharp for the game. There's no doubt that Juice wants to put to rest any supposed QB controversy after Eddie McGee's streaky, but strong, showing last week against Mizzou.


2. The Leathernecks to run a TON! They're a big time running team. Expect them to keep a nice balanced attack throughout the game. Also, their coach is a West Point grad (so he's a smart dude I guess), and also a Hayden Fry protege'. So watch out for trick plays!


3. J Leman to get a lot of tackles, maybe even close to the 20 he had last week. Why? See #2 above. He's going to be keying on their backs, and looking to stuff anything coming through the line up the middle.


4. Aurelious Benn to have a big game. Did anyone else notice how visibly HUNGRY and ENERGIZED he looked out on the field last week? This guy is a competitive monster, you can just tell. And even on ESPN2 last week, you can tell he has that contagious WINNER's mentality that can spread like wildfire thru a unit. Illinois' hasn't had any receiver even close to Benn's talent level since Brandon Lloyd wore the orange and blue.


5. Kyle Yelton to stay on the bench (thankfully!). It looks like Santella has the punting job locked up now. Yelton's low line drive last week that Mizzou returned for a touchdown pretty much sealed the deal for Santella. Santella can boom it at times (at least compared to Yelton), but he has a slower wind-up and release. Zook really likes Yelton's fast "get rid of it" quotient. The problem is, the guy's leg is like a wet noodle! Punting is STILL a big problem for the Illini. Keep a close eye on the punting game today. It needs to improve big time.


6. Turnovers. Look for a lot of turnovers in this game. Illinois showed that they could create them on both sides of the ball last week. I'm looking for Illinois to shut the run down tonight, forcing a lot of must pass scenarios on 3rd and long. That means some potential picks, especially if the Illini can get pressure on the quarterback and force him to make bad decisions.


7. Memorial stadium to be rockin'. At least half of it. Remember-- the west stands will be empty due to contruction. But the north end of the field is now enclosed, and that is the end that the students will be sitting in. It'll be interesting how loud that end of the stadium is going to be. The local media has been hyping how Zook thinks the new lay-out, once completed, will make Memorial Stadium rival the Assembly Hall in terms of crowd noise and home field advantage. We'll have to withhold judgment on that one for now.....but it'll be tough to rival the Hall's atmosphere. Anything even close would be awesome, though. The big thing is we need to win some games, so that the fans keep coming to them!


8. The Grange Rock. Zook wants the team to slap the Grange Rock on the way out of the tunnel, in order to honor Illini Football heritage, et al. Not a bad idea. So they moved the Grange Rock adjacent to the tunnel exit/entrance. We'll have to see if the rock gives them any luck!


9. Zook to run up and down the sidelines like an insane man the whole game. Why does he do that? Hasn't he ever heard that saying "Grace Under Pressure?" I can't stand how spastic he looks on the sidelines.....doesn't he know that a spastic leader transmits that spazoid vibe through to all of his men? Calm down Ron! You're doing a good job! You don't have to run around like a crazy man just so everyone knows you're working hard! Okay, okay...I feel better now.


10. A blow-out victory! The News-Gazette is predicting a 42-10 blow-out victory. I'm thinking more like 37-17. Should be fun.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

A tough Zook? Coach calls veterans out for their poor play!

In his first two seasons, Ron Zook just knew that he was coaching a flat out bad football team. After repeated losses, he always stayed positive, and stuck to the theme of "we're going to get better." This was true even last season, when the team showed some minor flashes of "good" midway through the season.

After Saturday's 6 point loss to Mizzou, Zook is no longer accepting a "puppy dogs and ice cream" demeanor in the Illini lockerroom. This is a GREAT sign for Illini fans. #1, this means that Zook thinks the team is actually good this year, and should beat teams like Mizzou. #2, it means he is raising the bar at Illinois. He's not going to accept losses any more. That was one of the irritating things about him during the first two seasons-- he just seemed punch drunk all the time at post-game press conferences, and always stuck to that "we're going to get better" theme that just got old after a while.
Kick' em in the @$% Ron!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Illini nearly pull off upset over Mizzou...but not quite

Well, that was one heck of a college football game today. I'm proud of Illinois' effort. What a huge difference between this game, and last year's early game against Rutgers!

You could see flashes of the explosive potential of Illinois' young talent. We actually forced some turnovers in this game! Eddie McGee wowed everyone with his poise and execution.....despite the fact that he had three turnovers. While he made the plays that cause the loss, he also made the plays that had Illinois in the game up to the last minute.

The most glaring weakness during the game, however, was Mizzou's ability to pass into the seam between Illinois' linebackers and their secondary. Mizzou was able to play pitch and catch for most of the game. Only late in the 4th quarter, when the defense started blitzing and getting pressure on the Missouri quarterback, did they have any success in shutting down their passing game.

All in all, it hurt to lose, but Illinois came out of this game on an upward glidepath.

Final note-- on that last pass by McGee that ended in an interception, it looked like he would have had Arrelious Benn wide open streaking to the endzone if he had just gone through his reads. But, hey, that was his first college game, ever.

Illinois could easily be 2-1 heading into week 4......all in all, the future looks brighter now than it did yesterday.