SOC - Western Michigan
_Ed Note: Every Friday night, between 8:00 and 2:30, I sit down to write a Stream Of Consciousness post. I do not edit these posts. I do not re-read these posts. I write out everything I'm thinking about the game and then make a prediction. The last time I SOC'd, I predicted Illinois 20, UCLA 13. I am, of course, a genius.
For the very first game, I also make a season prediction. In 2009, I predicted 10-2. I am, of course, a moron. _
I still don't know what this post is going to say. I still don't have a season prediction ready. I have been all over the place with this one. There's just so much we don't know. I considered writing two of these and then waiting until the second quarter tomorrow - when we'll have a decent idea what this team is made of - and posting the correct one. There's just so much we don't know.
OK, season prediction first. I think I do know one thing: we'll head to Evanston on November 24th 5-6. Yes, 5-6. Here's why.
EVERYTHING IS NEW. And sometimes, when everything is new, it's Yakkity Sax for the first few weeks. Like, some Western Michigan fan will make a video after tomorrow of our 9 fumbles with Benny Hill music. Nathan takes the snap, turns to throw the bubble screen, and everyone ran the wrong play. Three offensive linemen block the same defensive end, leaving a linebacker and a defensive tackle unabated to the quarterback. Sometimes, you just look lost as you try to find your feet (and as your coaches learn what it's like to coach next to each other on Saturdays).
Remember Michigan's first game with RichRod? Brand new offense, "all those mistakes in our pro set last year will now be CURED by our top shelf spread", and then a home loss to Utah with 36 rushing yards. Sometimes, it just takes time.
Because of that, I feel like we're starting 2-2. Not sure where those losses come from yet - we never play well on the west coast at night, so it feels like ASU will definitely be one of them and then it's a tossup between WMU and LaTech - but it just feels like a 2-2 start. I'm preemptively not faulting Beckman or Banks or GONZOBEAT - sometimes, it just takes time.
After that, I think we can maybe pull and upset. Beat Penn State and then stun either Wisconsin or Michigan. Feeling pretty good at 4-3. Beat Indiana, lose to Ohio State, and then our depth catches up to us and we're stunned by Minnesota and pounded by Purdue. Or maybe we don't beat Wisconsin, only beat Indiana and Purdue, and then we're facing Northwestern at 5-6.
Either way, with depth concerns, and scheme concerns, and defensive playcalling concerns, any injury concerns, and OH MY GOD OUR TWO STARTING SAFETIES WILL MISS THE WMU GAME concerns, I just can't see us pushing towards 7-5 or 8-4. I'd love to see it, and the window is there with tOSU and PSU under sanctions, and I've always said that Nate will lead us in 53 games which means he has to play in the Big Ten Championship Game either this year or the next, but I just can't see it. Too many concerns in Rantoul. Too many "he's going to have to play 95% of the snaps for us to be successful". Building this will take time, and while the defense is ahead of the offense, I don't think either is rich enough to carry us to a New Years Day bowl.
Which takes us to Evanston 5-6. On Sunday, I was in 5-7 lock mode. Laid everything out in my head and realized that building a program the right way meant installing long-term systems, and sometimes that's not fully installed for 24 games. By Tuesday, I was leaning 6-6. Wednesday 5-7, Thursday, after writing the State of the Union, I was thinking why not 7-5?
But here I am, faced with 5-6 heading to Northwestern. We haven't won at Ryan since (oh God I don't want to look it up - 2002?). I'm expecting us to waltz in there and put ourselves in a bowl game? I just don't think this team with a brand new everything is ready for somethingWAIT WAIT WAIT, just thought of something - Fitzee helps with their defensive gameplans.
Season Prediction: 6-6, Ticket City Bowl
Now for Western Michigan. I've been leaning loss ever since the depth chart came out with no Supo Sanni and no STEVEHULL. Brand new safeties against Alex Carder? 450 yards, shootout, we're not ready for a shootout.
Fun fact: Alex Carder threw for 548 yards against Tim Beckman last year. Five hundred and forty eight yards. 7 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. 548 yards!
Fun fact 2: In the Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and UCLA games COMBINED, Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 486 yards. Five games, 486 yards, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.
Given those two statistics, and given that we lost a few reliable offensive linemen and have no upperclassman tailbacks, don't you think that screams Western Michigan win? You would think so. But tonight, I don't. Tonight, with one hour left, August Syndrome kicked in. Two reasons we're winning.
Turnover fairy. She OWES us. We are DUE for some luck. Fumbles, tipped interceptions - we just haven't had a good luck season since 2007. We're due. I think this game kicks off with some luck, mostly because
Issac. Sweet, sweet, Tropical Storm Issac. If there's one thing we could use with two safeties (likely) out, it's wind and rain. Make it sloppy, and Carder doesn't get a chance to go for 549 yards. Make them run against our front seven, and they have no chance. We might lose next week in the desert, but we're not losing this one in the rain.
Illinois 30, Western Michigan 17