Stream Of Consciousness - Toledo
I think I'm gonna write the SOC and then I'm going to try to write the final five 90 Illini articles before I fall asleep. If I don't get them done, well, I'll have my laptop at the tailgate in the morning, and I technically have until 6:29 pm tomorrow to get all the way down to #1, so.....
The SOC, if you're new here (who would possibly be new here?) is the Stream Of Consciousness that I write before every game. I started doing it in 2009 and it just became a thing. The night before the game, I write out my thoughts, give my prediction for the game the next day, and then hit publish without A) going back and re-reading what I wrote or B) editing a single thing. Get to the end, hit publish. And, for the first SOC of the season, I add a season prediction and then get to the game prediction.
So let's start with the season prediction. I've mentioned this several times this summer so I feel like I'm repeating myself at this point but the year after the big year has always been an issue for us.
8 wins in 1999... 5 wins in 2000.
10 wins in 2001... 5 wins in 2002.
9 wins in 2007... 5 wins in 2008.
We absolutely love going 5-7 the year after a big year. Before last year, those were our three best seasons since 1989, and we followed up each one of them with five wins.
Why? It's pretty simple, I think. Bad programs (and we were a bad program for 30 years) can have good seasons but they don't recruit well enough, coach well enough, or develop well enough to maintain it. The players responsible for the great season leave, the new players aren't good enough (or need 6-12 games of seasoning), and the great season is followed by 5-7.
Yet fans never think it's going to happen. I've used this example many times this summer but look at Indiana in 2021. They won 8 games in 2019 and then, in the weird Covid season, actually went 6-1 in the Big Ten. In 2021 they're ranked in the preseason poll, there are millions of stories about how Tom Allen was the coach they needed all along... and they went 2-10. Ranked preseason and 2-10. Why? It's really, really hard to win football games. After going 6-1 in 2020, they've gone 6-18 since.
I mean, Michigan State just experienced this. After a bad season during the Covid year (a weird year for everyone), they go 11-2 in 2021 and Mel Tucker is given a gazillion dollar contract. Michigan State is #15 in the preseason poll last year and everything is rolling. 5-7.
There are countless examples. I mean, just last year there were a ton of teams in the preseason top-25 who fell out by the end of the season. Baylor goes 12-2 in 2021, Dave Aranda is a genius, they're #10 preseason in 2022... and they finish 6-7. Dave Aranda wasn't a genius nor is he a moron. College football is simply cyclical.
Yes, when coaches have programs established, they can get into a groove where they win 7-8-9 games every year. But all of the examples I just listed above are teams who have been trying to establish (or re-establish) their programs. And there's a bit of a roller coaster before they get there.
And that's fine! Baylor will likely bounce back this year. TCU will fall back. You go up, you go down, you go up, you go down, and eventually you try to maintain the "up."
That's why Vegas has our over/under at 6.5. That's why all of the NERDstats have us right around that. Here's the proposed win totals from that NERDstats article I wrote last week:
So that kind of sets the parameters for me. History tells me this will be a 5-7 season because every time we've won 8 or more games in the last 33 years we've followed that up with 5-7. The NERDstats (and Vegas) all suggest we'll be on the 7 side of 6.5. I think that pushes me towards 6-6. We break the curse of 5-7 by winning a sixth game and going to back-to-back bowls. And then we'll be much closer to establishing that whole "7-8-9 wins every year" that I talked about earlier. Yeah, I think I have my prediction.
Season record prediction: 6-6
As for this game, I've said all summer that I'm more afraid of Florida Atlantic than I am of Toledo. That's not to say that I think Toledo is bad. They'll probably win their division in the MAC again. I'm just more worried about stopping Casey Thompson in a Tom Herman offense. And the FAU game happens right after the (certain to be emotional) Penn State game, so it's the classic non-conference trap game.
It's funny to look at the two different paths after tomorrow. Think about it. This time tomorrow we are looking at these two paths:
"After this loss we now have to go on the road at Kansas (we never win our first road game) and then we have Penn State coming to town. There's now a really good chance we start 0-3."
"Now that we're 1-0, all I can think about is being 2-0 with Penn State coming to town (and Fox's Big Noon Saturday crew). Just think about it. Find some way to beat Kansas on Friday and we're setting up the biggest game in Champaign. in years."
Those are the two paths. You'll be discussing one of those two by 10:00 pm. Convinced we're starting 0-3 or so ready to take on Penn State at 2-0.
I've convinced myself that I'll be writing this SOC next Thursday night in Kansas dreaming about 2-0 with Kansas coming to town, so I think this is a win. That line of -9.5 sounds just about right to me. I think I have this one as...
Illinois 27, Toledo 16