You have it so easy, you know that?. Those luxurious serifs on your characters have already made me look dumb. You see, you can easily distinguish between "I" and "l". The SB Nation story editor, however, does not possess such a convenience. Those two characters look exactly the same for me and spell check does no good because IIlini is not a term spell check recognizes. So here I am, left to flail in my ineptitude for the whole world to see.
I hate you and nobody else, Illinois. I'm glad you stink.
This Season: 4-6 (1-5)
It looked like another bleak year for Tim Beckman in Champaign before the season started, and that vision has largely proven true once again. The IIlini did win their first B1G home game since October of 2011 when they upset now-ranked Minnesota 28-24 at Memorial Stadium, though that remains their lone win in the conference. But does that little fact spoil Beckman's enthusiasm for next season? Heck no! Tim says the Illlini could win eight games in 2015, which I guess is a good goal for a program like Illinois at the moment.
We Slunt, I mean Wes Lunt, is back under center after missing four of the last six games due to injury. Lunt has put up some really nice numbers when he hasn't been nursing a knock: 14 TDs, 3 INTs, 65% cmp% and 7.7 ypa. If he can't go on every series, Reilly O'Toole, the dual-threat to Lunt's pocket passer, will be available to step in. O'Toole played most of the game against Minnesota, and the Illlini used both QBs last week against Iowa, though neither was particularly effective at moving the ball.
Whoever is playing QB will have a couple of outstanding targets to throw to. Mike Dudek will challenge DaeSean Hamilton for the conference's top freshman pass-catcher award (if such an award existed). In his first season Dudek has racked up 787 receiving yards and five touchdowns, including two scores last week. Josh Ferguson should be a familiar name, having caught a touchdown pass at Beaver Stadium in Penn State's 24-17 overtime win last year. He's very effective catching the ball out of the backfield the IIlini will look to get him in open space against Bob Shoop's stout defensive front.
As highlighted in this week's Just the Stats, the lIIini defense has issues. They're 121st nationally against the run and 106th in pass efficiency defense, which leads one to believe that Penn State could have even more success on offense than they did against Temple last week.
The IlIini usually have some talent on defense, and this year is no different. Earnest Thomas is a hybrid linebacker/safety who leads the team in sacks with 4.5. Mason Monheim is the team's leading tackler with 97 on the season. The junior also has three forced fumbles to his name.
This might be the weirdest stat I've come across all season: Illinois has employed two kickers this season, and combined they have attempted six field goals. Both have made just one out of their three chances, and neither have made a field goal longer than 25 yards. On one hand we should commend Beckman for going for it inside opposing territory, but on the other hand, that's pretty hilarious.
Last Week: 30-14 L vs. Iowa
This one was never really in doubt for the Hawkeyes, despite the fact that they were down 7-2 at the end of the first quarter. Mark Weisman and Jordan Canzeri hit the Illini in the mouth to the tune of 202 rushing yards, and Jake Rudock did enough to get rested in the fourth quarter despite the lead being just 23 points ahead. Not a good sign for Beckman when Kirk Ferentz is sending in his backups with the game not totally decided.
Blog You Should Also Be Reading This Week
The amazingly-named Champaign Room. I'll never not get a kick out of that. Oh yeah, they have some good stuff about this week's game, too.
Tim Beckman is a living meme.
Photo: Michael Hickey - Getty Images
Photo: Joe Robbins - Getty Images
Photo: Andrew Weber - USA Today Sports