SOC - Northwestern

Nov 23, 2018

I'm happy this is the last SOC of the year. By February I'll be wishing there was more football, but right now, especially after the Iowa drubbing and then the 0-3 trip to Maui, I'm just ready for it all to be over. Just get me to 2019. Not just football, but basketball too.

I wrote about this over the summer but I'll say it again: the 2019/20 school year is going to be everything for Illini athletics. That's when we find out of either of these programs are going anywhere. Yes, it's only November and the basketball program could still prove it this year, but let's be honest, it's not going to happen this year. Not with so many new players. Nobody has any idea what they're doing yet, and that's probably not going to change until February. I could maybe see a late season surge for this team, but really, we're likely headed for something like 13-18.

And football - I'm just ready for the season to be over so we can forget about the three 60-balls and the two games with five turnovers. They're staring me in the face right now, screaming "this rebuild isn't going anywhere - a team that's going somewhere isn't going to lose 63-0 in game #35". It's weird for me to say, but the possibility exists that we could somehow win tomorrow, finish the season 5-7 (ahead of my preseason expectations and a pass from Rivers to Smalling against USF away from a bowl), and I'd somehow be more disappointed than the 4-8 season I expected. 63-0 (or 712 yards to Maryland, or 5 turnovers at Wisconsin)... it's just so impossible to forget.

Just get this behind us so we can get to the years that matter. The football program has been pointing towards 2019 and 2020 since Lovie started playing the freshmen over the juniors, so can we just get there please? There's only one awful, horrific, watch-Fitzee-beat-us-and-then-head-to-Indy game left between here and 2019, so can we please just get this over with?

Because if either of these programs is going anywhere, we're going to learn in 2019. Football, season four, everyone back, finally a bunch of juniors and seniors on the field, hopefully a big step forward. And then immediately following that season, a basketball season with most everyone back, (hopefully) sophomore leaps from several players, 11 returning players instead of the current 4, everyone is versed in the system, Trent as a junior plus Ayo as a sophomore, time to take a step forward.

365 days from today we'll have a really good idea where everything is headed. Lovie will have completed his fourth season and likely either be extended or fired, Underwood will have just signed his third class and will be +/- five games into the season (hopefully 5-0, not 1-4 like right now) - we'll know what we need to know. Was all of the roster turnover worth it? The answer right now, for both teams, is a resounding "NO" but I'm willing to wait one more year to see what happens.

As for this specific game? Man, don't make me talk about this game. I hate this game. I'll be sick to my stomach all day tomorrow. Watch us lose to Northwestern for the fourth year in a row? Watch an offense that pretty much everyone has stopped this season go off for a ton of points and yard after yard? This game has such great "why do we put ourselves through this?" potential.

I mean, statistically, we should be able to hang in this game. It's so stupid that Northwestern won the Big Ten West. Just look at their offensive NERDstats in the S&P+:

Explosiveness: 124th our of 130 teams
Offensive Efficiency: 117th
Points Per Scoring Opportunity: 109th
Rushing S&P+: 122nd

In some ways, they're the offensive version of our defense. And they're going to the Big Ten Championship Game. It's so incredibly Northwestern.

Can we make them pay for tripping down the stairs and falling into the Big Ten title game? We cannot! Because we suck! Because this is the worst Illini defense of our lifetimes! An opportunity exists to pull the upset if we were just an average 4-7 football team and we're nowhere close to that.

Which means we're not going to win. Which means the season will mercifully end. Which, honestly, is a relief.

Northwestern 33, Illinois 10


Bear8287 on November 24 @ 12:55 AM CST

Can we make them pay for tripping down the stairs and falling into the Big Ten title game? We cannot! Because we suck!

Oh ouch! I need to write a letter to the DIA and say, "See now what you've gone and done? You've broken Robert!" Clearly this has gone too far.

365 days from today we'll have a really good idea where everything is headed. Lovie will have completed his fourth season and likely either be extended or fired...

Amazing, but probably true. A coach isn't likely to survive being 47 games in and seeing his team blown off the field by 9 touchdowns.

I had expected 3 wins this season and at one point said that I could probably be talked into upping that to 4, but honestly, it's not hard for me to imagine a number of only 3 win scenarios where I'd feel better about next season than I do now.

1970 John on November 24 @ 07:23 AM CST

I am so hoping we can put things enough together that we can squeak out a win here, just to shut up a Northwestern alum acquaintance who has convinced himself that not only is his education is better than ours, but that so is their football. Ugh.

Anyway, it could happen, the offensive line opening enough holes for Reggie, Bonner and AJ spring for big gains, our receivers receive without dropping, we don't spoil drives with penalties, we return to our earlier turnover advantage, we tackle, we sack, we tip balls at the line and get interceptions, we recover fumbles-for-touchdowns that aren't called back. Yeah, it could happen. All of it. I'll be at a dinner with my daughter's Maryland alum boyfriend so I won't know the results until that's over, but, hey, it could happen.

uilaw71 on November 24 @ 07:32 AM CST

My initial reaction was much like Bear’s: even Robert has finally broken faith. But then I realized he’s just trolling the naysayers. Well played Robert!

illinisludge on November 24 @ 08:05 AM CST

I’d like the team to show some life. Getting blown out by Iowa was just too depressing. Be competitive and set the tone for next year. I say they have to go bowling to save Lovie’s job. But I’m afraid even with the momentum of a bowl, the best he’ll do is 7 wins, maybe 8 in a fantastic year.

HiggsBoson on November 24 @ 09:59 AM CST

The 2019-20 scenario is also dependent on NOT having the off season roster churn and transfers that have been SOP for programs since the current coaches arrived. If that happens again...

Whether or nor recruits actually sign and show up on campus is also critical, especially for football.

If the off season goes well, then things might very well be looking up.

MuckFichigan92 on November 24 @ 09:23 PM CST

"If the off season goes well, then things might very well be looking up."

Nice weather vane. You have been preaching the abyss but now you see an ascent? Such vacillation is why we are in this deathroll.

IBFan on November 24 @ 10:14 AM CST

We are getting trounced today but I will still watch and rewatch. I will still read all the negative posts and hell I might even respond. I will be anxiously waiting the start of camp next year with all the redshirts available and another solid recruiting class. Yes, we have some of the best athletes coming we have ever seen in the O and B, the class by the time it's finished will be solid. I look at the season and see progress even with the injuries and player losses. No way Robert predicts 4 wins or even competitive games missing that many players for that many games. I watch film and I think Dudek catches that over and over again. Dudek returns that punt for at least 15 yards. Dudek doesn't drop that punt. As bad as I feel for the team/season, for me, it just doesn't even begin to compare to Mikey. When he went down we lost our best special teams player, our best receiver, a team leader, and undoubtedly some of our heart and soul. Wish DudeK had a great season, not for me or you and another win or two, but for him. Let him suit up on the first offensive play.

illiniranger on November 24 @ 11:36 AM CST

Are our HCs building a team, or are they building a program? Still a little early to tell with basketball (and the nature of FR to contribute immediately makes roster construction different.)

Football? We’re just building to one good (maybe) team.

jfinsocal on November 24 @ 11:49 AM CST

The darkest hour is just before dawn.

HiggsBoson on November 25 @ 02:31 PM CST

Nope. It got darker today when Whitman gave Lovie a two year extension without waiting to see how next year went. FIVE more years of bad football are now looming out there.

Joe Edge on November 24 @ 07:19 PM CST

Still lots of room for improvements on BOTH sides of the ball... Need to learn to finish once in the red-zone. While the defense certainly needs work, getting touchdowns would go along way towards helping the defense out....

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