Big Ten Notebook: Illinois on a Roll
What A Difference Two Years Makes
Two years ago Ron Zook and the Illinois Illini struggled through a season where they won two games in all and none in the Big Ten. This season the Illini are 5-1 and a perfect 3-0 in the Big Ten, and Zook is all smiles. He has a young core of players that are talented and believe in his system.
Illinois has shown that they deserve to be talked about in the race for the 2007 Big Ten title and a BCS birth with consecutive wins against Penn State and now Wisconsin. On offense they are led by a sophomore quarterback Juice Williams, who uses his legs to make plays; a junior running back Rashard Mendenhall who combines speed with power; and a freshman wide receiver Arrelious Benn who can beat you on special teams too.
This team is dangerous, not only because they are good, but also because they too young to realize what is going on around them. Illinois jumped out to a 17-0 lead against Wisconsin and held onto a 31-26 victory. The only down point is the fact that they gave up almost 400 yards passing to the Badgers. The Illini’s defense will have to toughen up if they want to beat Michigan or Ohio State.
Put Up or Shut Up
Purdue suffered a huge defeat at the hands of Ohio State last week. The Boilermakers averaged over 40 points per game and was held to only 7 points last week. Their opponent this week had a habit early in the season of giving up a lot of points also. Michigan gave up 73 points in their first two games but has toughen up on the defensive end. The Wolverines are undefeated in Big Ten play and are back in the race for the conference title.
Purdue should scare the fans of the Wolverines, and that is because of the offense they run. The Boilermakers, led by their QB Curtis Painter, are notorious for spreading the field and picking apart their opponents with their accurate passing game. The spread offense gave the Wolverines fits in their first two games and it will do the same again this week.
For the Wolverines to win they have to follow the recipe of giving the ball to Michael Hard and eating up the clock. Hart should carry the ball over 35 times again this week, and if Chad Henne does not turn the ball over the Wolverines have a shot.
1. Ohio State – Quietly the Buckeyes get better and better each week. They don’t have the hype they did last season but the talent is there.
2. Illinois – Zook as a team full of young talent on both sides of the ball.
3. Michigan – This team is all Hart.
4. Purdue – If Joe Tiller could ever get a defense this team could go places.
5. Penn State – Still too many questions on the offensive side of the ball.
6. Wisconsin – Defensively this team needs to learn how to tackle
7. Indiana – If the Hoosiers get another playmaker besides Kellen Lewis they could be dangerous.
8. Northwestern – The Wildcats are too inconsistent week in and week out to figure them out.
9. Iowa – Last week against Penn State the Hawkeyes had 2 total first downs late in the fourth quarter. No offensive identity.
10. Michigan State – Looks like they’ve begun their yearly collapse, but they cannot blame John L. Smith this time.
11. Minnesota – Bad…just plain bad.