SOC - Indiana
It's time for... combo basketball postgame article/football Stream Of Consciousness. I'm always good for at least one of these every year. Next week Tyler will be covering the Friday night game (while I'll be headed to Iowa), so maybe I only have one more of these (for the game the Friday after Thanksgiving).
First, the basketball thoughts. It was a "somebody go slap the side of the TV to get these lines to stop appearing" game for 30 minutes and then solid basketball for the final 10. Quincy Guerrier was the catalyst to a big surge as Illinois turned "why are we tied 48-48 with Oakland University?" into "oh wow we lead 64-48 now that's a 16-0 run". Threes and frees were still a massive concern - 4 for 16 from three, 8 for 16 from the line - but the defense was great in the final eight minutes and Oakland was finally shoved aside.
Underwood went to a very tall lineup and it seemed to really bother Oakland. The five players on the floor at the time:
Ty Rodgers (6'-6")
Terrence Shannon (6'-6")
Quincy Guerrier (6'-8")
Dain Dainja (6'-9")
Coleman Hawkins (6'-10")
Oakland really struggled with that size. As Underwood noted on the radio immediately after the game, that run included 11 consecutive defensive stops. The crowd finally came alive with each defensive stop, and then we finally hit a couple threes on the offensive end. After not having much to cheer about, the last ten minutes brought the dads to their feet.
My biggest takeaway, I think, was the short bench. Underwood noted that this was an "NCAA Tournament-like game", quickly clarifying that he meant a lower-scoring, tight rotation kind of game. There were only 24 fouls called the entire game (both teams combined) so neither team had a player reach even four fouls.
I agree with Underwood that it had the feel of one of those 4/13 games in the Tournament. The 13-seed is plucky and the 4-seed is holding to their main rotation of seven guys and waiting for their superior defense to take over. The refs aren't calling much, the game is flying by, and finally the better team puts the upstart away.
What does that tell us? It says that the main rotation is going to be Rodgers-Shannon-Domask-Guerrier-Hawkins plus Dainja, Goode, and Harmon. Despite being the leading scorer in the opener, DGL is probably 9th-man for now (although perhaps he overtakes Harmon). And then Hansberry and Moretti are primarily bench guys for their freshmen seasons.
That's what I learned at the basketball game. Here's what I learned this week about the football team:
Well, nothing new. We learned that Luke Altmyer still hadn't practiced as of Thursday so it's likely that John Paddock starts. That's quite concerning, obviously. For as great as Paddock was for those three throws last Saturday, an entire game is a whole different story.
If you listened to the postgame press conference from Minnesota you heard Bret Bielema note that Donovan Leary had started taking a lot of the snaps with the twos during the bye week (instead of Paddock). Which means that there's a chance we see two quarterbacks tomorrow - Paddock and Leary. If Paddock starts and struggles, I don't think Bielema would hesitate to turn to Leary.
(And there's also a chance that Altmyer was finally cleared today and he starts tomorrow.)
The good news is, I don't think it will matter. For whatever reason, I see this as a comfortable win. Famous last words, I know, and when our backup QB throws an early pick I'll be asking myself why I never learn, but seriously, I feel like tomorrow is an "everything comes together" game. Here's the three things I think will go right.
- You can run on Indiana, and Reggie Love returns tomorrow, so I think we get our running game on track with Kaden Feagin + Reggie Love. A little thunder and lightning.
- We haven't had our "when it rains, it pours" takeaway game yet. We've still only recovered 11 of the 26 fumbles in our games. That needs to move towards 50% tomorrow. And we're due for some of these tipped passes to end up as interceptions.
- This is the worst offense we will have faced all season and I feel like this is a get-right game for our defense as well.
Famous last words, yes, but I have that feeling every time I predict a big win. Any time I predict a win by 15+ I bet I have this same "are you crazy?" feeling. But these are supposed to be how I feel about the game tomorrow, and here's how I feel about the game tomorrow:
I feel like we win big. I feel like we win the turnover battle and we run the ball. Altmyer's status does give me pause, but I can't stop this train of good feelings here. Time to stop trying to talk myself out of it and put the bold prediction in ink:
Illinois 35, Indiana 10