Okay, let's state the obvious facts: they are not a good football team, some fans have lost interest, a CBS analyst stated that coach Ron Turner is a coach on the "hot seat", and getting a win in the next four weeks looks very slim.
Let's start with not being a good team. They have the talent, but when you watch them play you don't get that winning feeling or attitude.
Joe Tiller came in with head coach Ron Turner seven years ago. His record for opening games in Big Ten play is 7-0, while Turner's is 0-7.
The die-hard fans are frustrated, pointing fingers, and at this point some are trying to sell their remaining tickets. You can only hide the facts for so long: two winning seasons in seven years. Look at what Glenn Mason, Joe Tiller and Kirk Ferentz have done at their respective schools - right now all three schools are ranked in the Top 25.
When teams struggle for any length of time, the coach is the first to take the blame. What was once thought to be an "inside" secret has now become a national one - calling for Coach Turner's head. I think the problem lies deeper than Turner and here's why.
We know he's a great offensive coach; his numbers clearly state that. You can argue passing percentages vs. the run, but for the most part his teams can score with the best of them. It's stopping teams that's been a seven-year problem for Turner. Last year in the five games they did manage to win, they had to out-score teams because they couldn't stop anyone.
This year is no different. They can't stop the pass or the run, giving up 38 and 40 points in back to back games. What the Illini need is a defensive coordinator that walks the talk. That's easier said than done. It's very difficult to find a GREAT defensive coach who isn't working for someone else. The only way Illinois has a chance at landing that person is to pay more than the average school offers. This guy must be as good as Ron Turner himself. If not, that hourglass is about to show empty.
There were games in the past that Illinois should have won had they been able to stop people. In the Sugar Bowl, Illinois managed to score 34 points - but gave up 47. In 2002 season against San Jose St., how many times did the Aztec's complete 3rd and 17, 3rd and 20 and 3rd and 25? All of them – resulting in an Illinois loss at home, 35-38.
The only win this year came from Illinois St., and somehow they racked up 500 yards of total offense against Illinois. That game was the sign, but many overlooked it and felt it was a fluke.
Comparing the three head coaches mentioned earlier, the defensive numbers rank like this so far this year: Scoring defense – Purdue, 12.8; Iowa, 13.3; Minnesota, 13.7 and Illinois, 27.0. Rushing defense – Purdue, 51.8; Iowa, 82.5; Minnesota, 132.2 and Illinois, 180.5.
Clearly this is an issue the program needs to address. If not, the Turner regime may be over sooner that expected. Having won a Big Ten title two years ago, it seems unlikely that Turner would be on the "hot seat", but the Illini faithful have grown restless and have already started looking forward to basketball. Such a poor season will eventually affect recruiting.
Look at what's ahead. It is very possible that this team could be 1-9 in the upcoming weeks with games against Michigan St., Michigan, Minnesota and Iowa.