SOC - Iowa
I've never played craps. I've watched, and I get the basics, but I've never played. The majority of my craps knowledge comes from movies, and movies always present it one way - "he couldn't possibly do it AGAIN on his next roll, could he?"
That's where I'm at with this win streak. The Wisconsin game got some people around me at the end of the table. Purdue meant the crowd grew. Rutgers is the scene where the crowd is getting loud and I'm asking people to kiss the dice. And then Michigan State is basically the entire casino floor surrounding the table and cheering when they see what I rolled.
Which means the scene where we roll a seven is coming. It just has to be. There's no way we win six straight games to close out the season because we might win six straight games to start next season and that means if we win the bowl game we'd win 13 in a row and we're absolutely not winning 13 in a row my God people this is Illinois football we're talking about.
At some point, the turnovers dry up. At some point, we start turning the ball over again. I don't mean that in a "because we're Illinois" sense - I mean it as "because this is college football". When you lead the nation in turnover margin, a correction is coming. Always and forever.
And that's fine! We've cleared the big hurdle. We're going to a bowl game. I still want next week because I want my 7-5 to come true (and I think we absolutely win on this senior day for this senior class). I really hope we get a solid bowl matchup, win it, and go into the offseason talking about eight (EIGHT) wins.
But I don't think we'll go into the offseason talking about nine wins. That would mean we'd have beaten Iowa, and I just don't think we're beating Iowa. There's a reason this line started at 12 and grew to 15. It's not disrespect - it's "we're a team on the rise yet with serious flaws we're still working through, and they're the established, experienced team playing at home on senior day".
Just look at Iowa's losses. They lost:
- At Michigan by 7.
- Home to Penn State by 5.
- At Wisconsin by 2.
A few plays here and there from being 10-0, ranked maybe 5th nationally, and playing for a playoff spot. No, I don't think they're a playoff team (they beat Purdue by 6 and Minnesota by 4 and Iowa State by 1, so we could play this game in the other direction), but I do think they're significantly better than us. We've gotten a lot better, but we lost 63-0 last year and I don't think we've made up that much ground since.
Next year - I'm calling it right now, next year we destroy Iowa in Champaign. That's our revenge game for 63-0. This year, I just don't think we're there yet. The turnovers were on our side, and with the turnovers on our side we beat Wisconsin and Michigan State, and when you combine that with the Purdue thrashing and the Rutgers second half, it means we're a much improved football team and headed for something great next season. But I don't think it means we're headed for a six-game winning streak this season.
It's funny - I basically wrote this same post for the Michigan State game, and when it was 28-3 with Michigan State at our 8 about to score again, I was patting myself on the back for seeing the inevitable coming. And then, well, you know...
So now it doubly feels like the inevitable is coming, right? Like, we have the sixth-longest winning streak among all Power Five teams. How is four games the sixth-longest streak? Because it's really, really hard to win a bunch of games in a row. Inevitably, you'll have a game where the turnovers go the other way and you lose resoundingly. It just happens.
Which means I see tomorrow as a loss. Perhaps the most acceptable loss for Illinois this decade. Bowl eligibility is wrapped up, we're on the road playing the 19th-ranked Hawkeyes, we'll go for broke with nothing to lose but come up short. We regroup, destroy Northwestern, and then spend an entire week obsessing over which bowl we'll go to. Sounds like fun.
If we do win tomorrow? Katy bar the door. That means we can start talking Gator/Outback/Holiday, it means we might win nine games, it means we might enter this offseason with more recruiting momentum than we know what to do with.
But I don't think it's happening. We're gonna roll a seven. And that's fine!
Iowa 27, Illinois 9