SOC - Western Illinois
As I sit here typing this, two things. 1) There's rain pelting my window as the remnants of tropical storm Gordon drench St. Louis en route to Champaign. 2) SMU and TCU are playing in the rain on my television and there have been about 12 fumbles/dropped passes/wet ball shenanigans.
That leads me to think two things about tomorrow:
- It's going to rain - have you heard?
- The over/under is 12 fumbles/dropped passes/wet ball shenanigans.
To be honest, I'm not even sure if there will be a game tomorrow. I'm still going - the plan is a 6-hour tailgate followed by sitting in the stands with my wife and two of our three boys because night games need to be watched from the stands, not the pressbox - and the tailgate will happen regardless, but, um, here's the rain forecast for the next 30 hours:
Once it turns pink, that's 4 inches of rain. The darker purple is 6+ inches of rain. Yes, you can play football in the rain, but that dark band reveals where most of the thunderstorms will be (such as the thunder and lightning outside my window right now). And if there's lightning, we have another Kent State 2015 on our hands (2.5 hours of lightning canceled the game).
Please note - this will not stop me. This is why Al Gore invented tents - to tailgate in the rain. And if it's just rain and no lightning, football can still be played in the rain. Football can still be watched in the rain (just remember - parkas only, as Memorial Stadium does not allow umbrellas).
But when football is played in the rain, especially downpour rain like what's being suggested by that map, it becomes pretty much all fumbles/dropped passes/wet ball shenanigans.
Which makes a game like this impossible to predict. I mean, yes, there might be a window in the storm where it doesn't rain for four hours and they get the game in. I had a golf scramble in St. Louis this morning, and it was 70-80% chance of rain, and they almost cancelled it last night, and then the first wave of storms passed through overnight and the second wave didn't arrive until mid-afternoon so we played 18 holes of very slow scramble golf in clouds and occasional sunshine. But it's probably more likely that this one is played in heavy rain that makes it hard to see what's going on.
So you can't really predict anything about this game. If it's raining that hard, nobody can pass, punts will go 30 yards, and it's 1911 football again. Maybe we'll even break out the leather helmets. If there's a break in the rain (or if it's only raining lightly like it is in the SMU/TCU game right now), then it's the normal game that everyone expects. And if it's delayed for lightning and then cancelled, well, then we can rejoice because it means we're going to win five games this season. Because if Illinois Football has the opportunity to win five games and be one win away from a bowl and that sixth win might come from our FCS opponent but the FCS opponent game gets cancelled because a tropical storm parked over Champaign on the evening of September 8th meaning Illinois finished 5-6 and one game short of a bowl, well, Illinois Football will take that opportunity every time.
Yet here I am, writing a prediction post for the game tomorrow. Let's make the assumption that it will be raining steadily but not raining to the point where you cannot see. So you can pass it some but not all that much. Here's what I want to see:
- Establish the run game and then establish it again. This is what I'd want to see if the game was being played under clear skies. The rushing performance in the first half last week was bad bad bad. We all need to feel better about NOT going from 2-0 to 2-10 again, and to do that, we need to see an established running game against an FCS opponent.
- Forced turnovers. At first I just wrote "turnovers" but then I went back and edited-in the word "forced" because "turnovers" might imply that I want to see us turn the ball over. I do not want to see us turn the ball over. I want to see those 3+ shirts actually mean something.
- AJ Bush being smart with the ball. There were no interceptions last week, but Bush did fumble it twice (one was lost, one Epstein jumped on). My biggest worry with AJ is turnovers, so I'd like to see a wet and sloppy game where the QB is extra careful with the ball.
I think that's all I can say here. I hate this tropical storm outside my window right now (I live in ST. LOUIS - why am I dealing with a tropical storm?) and I hate that our only Saturday night game (and the requisite tailgating that accompanies such games) has to deal with 4-6" of rain, but this can still be fun. Football in the rain is fun. Tailgating in tents can be fun. Let's make the most of it.
Oh, one more thing that I'll sneak in here at the end. Two of my youngest son's best friends play for Western Illinois. That son (and another one of their high school teammates) will be coming with us. So if you see my gang in the stands cheering for something WIU did, don't hold it against me. My hope for this game is that we win 52-3... and both of those guys make one play I can cheer for. (I did text the kid who plays cornerback and told him NO INTERCEPTIONS. I think he agreed, but I'm not sure he meant it.)
All in all, I'm going to expect rain, sloppy football, and a lower score than if it were a sunny day. Also, an Illini victory.
Illinois 31, Western Illinois 13