I attended the Illinois – Louisiana-Lafayette game this past weekend in person and let’s just say that I enjoyed the company and the new look of the west side of Memorial Stadium, but little about the actual contest on the field. Juice Williams telegraphed several passes to the opposing defense as usual, the wide receivers ended up dropping passes even when Juice ended up throwing the ball well, Rejus Benn seemed to be on the field for 58 out of 60 minutes yet was a complete non-factor, the Illinois defense allowed significant plays to an inferior offense, and all phases of the Illini suffered from a lackadaisical attitude and idiotic penalties. Deron Williams deserved a much better effort after his return to campus just off of winning a gold medal in Beijing. (Speaking of Beijing, check out this Chicago Tribune article on the significant impact that the University of Illinois has had on the development of the Paralympic Games both here in the U.S. and around the world.) The only positive comparison that I’ve seen is how the Illini played against Western Illinois last season, where the team similarly looked sluggish against a clearly inferior team yet went on to reach the Rose Bowl. I hope that’s the case, but I’m concerned that Juice is still making some of the same mistakes as a junior that he was incurring as a freshman. I’ll give him credit that he’s making some more accurate downfield throws this year and I’m long past the point of believing that he’ll ever be a great pocket passer, but his habit of looking straight at the receivers that he’s about to throw to is not going work when Big Ten conference play starts in two weeks at Penn State (let’s hope he looks a bit better on our first prime time ABC telecast of the season than Ohio State’s tandem of quarterbacks did last week). Juice’s arm is going to be much more of a factor for the rest of this season with the Illini running attack clearly truncated without the presence of Rashard Mendenhall. The fact that we open up the Big Ten portion of the schedule with back-to-back road games in Happy Valley and Ann Arbor means that we need to use this bye week to get things back into order very quickly if we want to make a January bowl game. The bye week also gives me the chance to pick three games without having to worry about the Illini (home teams in CAPS):
(1) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+8.5) over MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS – I’ve seen the horror story called “Michigan State hosting Notre Dame” way too many times. I doubt that Michigan State is going to give up 97 turnovers in a game in the same manner as its in-state rival last week, but there will be a brain-freeze by the Spartans at some point which will at least allow the Irish to cover the spread (if not win the game outright).
(2) Iowa Hawkeyes (+1) over PITTSBURGH PANTHERS – Dave Wannstedt is still coaching Pitt… ’nuff said.
(3) FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL GOLDEN PANTHERS (+28) over South Florida Bulls – I’ll admit this is a complete gut feeling here since FIU has lost 2 games by a combined score of 82-10, including a 40-10 loss to a Kansas team that USF just beat last week. Still, FIU is at home opening a brand new on-campus stadium against a USF team that I’m already on the record of being skeptical of the Bulls on the road. Such a large spread with the road team as a favorite is a red flag in my eyes, so I’m taking the points here.
Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2
Illini Games for the Season: 0-2
Overall Season: 5-4
(Image from Chicago Tribune)