No Sleep Till Football

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What Was Going on in Illinois?

A little food for thought. I’m through the first 5 rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft. Through those 5 rounds, here are the leaders in terms of most players drafted by a single school. I’m also going to list their 2011 record.

1. Alabama – 7 players; 2011 Record = 12-1
2. LSU – 5 players; 2011 Reocrd = 13-1
2. Arkansas – 5 players drafted; 2011 Record = 11-2
2. Oklahoma – 5 players drafted; 2011 Record = 10-3
2. Wisconsin – 5 players drafted; 2011 Record = 11-3
6. Illinois – 4 players drafted; 2011 Record = 7-6

What the? The top-5 teams combined for a 57-10 record which averages out to 11-2! Keep in mind that 2 of Illinois’s 4 picks were first round draft choices! Lest you think I’m being overly harsh on Illinois, consider the other teams who had 4 players drafted in the first 5 rounds and their 2011 records:

Stanford = 11-2
South Carolina = 11-2
Boise St. = 12-1
Cincinnati = 10-3
Notre Dame = 8-5
Clemson = 10-4
Iowa = 7-6
Miami-FL = 6-6

Those 8 teams combined for a record of 75-29 or about 9-4. Teams that had 4 or more players drafted combined for a 132-39 which on average is 10-3 if you exclude Illinois. Now let’s take a look at the schools who didn’t perform.

Illinois: Went 7-6 & Ron Zook lost his job
Notre Dame: Brian Kelly is feeling a little heat in South Bend especially with his use of Tommy Rees in 2011. Still it was only his 2nd yaer at the helm for the Irish
Iowa: Kirk Ferentz has an established track record & was 11-2 in 2009, but you have to think heat is starting to be applied just a bit.
Miami-FL: The Hurricanes were a mess under Randy Shannon and this was Al Golden’s first year in Coral Gables.

The string simply ran out on the Zooker! It is interesting to note just how fragile seasons can be. Remember that Illinois started 2011 at 6-0! They were 6-0 (2-0) in conference, but then lost 6 straight games including close losses to Purdue & Penn St. Given the talent level that Illinois had evidenced by the NFL Draft, Illinois has to find a way to win those games which would have put them at 8-4. A home game against a reeling Ohio St. team was a perfect time to upset the Buckeyes and losing the season finale to a bad Minnesota teams doesn’t help either. This was an Illinois team that had the making of a 10-2 record. The Illini did rally to beat UCLA in their bowl game to finish above .500, but if Illinois goes 10-2 and wins a bowl game to finish 11-2, then you can be certain Ron Zook is still employed by the university.

Something else to keep in mind is if Illinois wins those close games against Purdue & Penn St. and then beats reeling Ohio St. & Minnesota teams, then the 10-2 record actually includes 2 home losses to Michigan & Wisconsin. At 6-2, Illinois would have been tied atop the “Leaders” division in the Big 10, but wouldn’t get to the Big 10 championship game due to the tiebreaker loss to Wisconsin, BUT if Illinois wins one of those games at home against either Michigan or Wisconsin, then the Illini turn in an 11-1 (7-1) season and have a chance at playing for the Rose Bowl.

When you look back at the 2011 season and don’t dive into the inner workings of the week to week schedule, the 7-6 Illinois squad doesn’t look too bad. They got to a bowl. They won a bowl. They finished above .500. Sure the conference record stinks, but the Big 10 was pretty competitive. However, you look at the talent on hand. The NFL Draft. The close games. The head scratching losses. The closer you look at the 2011 Illinois football team, the more you realize just what a disappointment it truly was.

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April 29, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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