"I want a hamburger…no a cheeseburger. I want a hot dog. I want potato chips…"
"You'll get nothing and like it!" Well, to put this in analogy form, the Illini is to Spalding as their opponents are to Judge Smails. The Illini football has been given nothing and made to like it. You college bound students should remember that analogy because it could be on the ACT this spring.
The Illini are halfway through their schedule and for the second straight year, they have started out 1-5. Last year, Ron Turner's brood came on strong and went 4-2 in their last six games to finish the season at 5-7. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the Illini to finish 5-7 this year.
Saturday, October 11 – vs. #23 Michigan State (5-1 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) The Spartans are off to a surprisingly, strong start. Michigan State has been riding high with victories over Iowa and Notre Dame. If the Spartans had sealed the deal at home against Louisiana Tech, they would be undefeated and QB Jeff Smoker and first-year Head Coach John L. Smith would be given lifetime passes to the Izzone. Things don't look so good for the Illini in this one.
Saturday, October 18- at #19 Michigan (4-2, 1-1) Michigan was being touted for a National Championship and RB Chris Perry was basically given the Heisman Trophy after a 38-0 rout of Notre Dame. Since that big win, the Wolverines have won at home against Indiana and dropped contests at Oregon and Iowa. Michigan is always tough at the Big House and seems to have a mind warp over the Illini. A win in Ann Arbor would help Ron Turner with restless fans, but don't bet your paycheck on an Illini victory.
Saturday, October 25 – vs. #13 Minnesota (6-0, 2-0) Homecoming in Champaign-Urbana will be a rare venture out of the Metrodome for the Golden Gophers, who like to pad their record at home against poor non-conference opponents. But the Gophers have gone on the road recently and picked up Big Ten wins at Northwestern and Penn State. A win in Happy Valley doesn't mean as much as it used to and the real test for Minnesota will come this Friday night at home against Michigan. Possible chance for an Illini upset, but the Golden Gophers are a menace to Ron Turner, much like the gopher in Caddyshack was a menace to Bill Murray.
Saturday, November 1 – at #15 Iowa (5-1, 1-1) The Illini and the Hawkeyes meet for the first time in a couple of years on the first day of November. Iowa is one year removed from the Orange Bowl and lost QB Brad Banks and TE Dallas Clark, but have managed to win five games. The Hawkeyes were looking ahead to Michigan and dropped a game in East Lansing to Michigan State. Without that stumble, the Hawkeyes are most likely a top ten team. This one has a chance to be "bowling shoe" ugly.
Saturday, November 8 – at Indiana (1-5, 0-2) I am guilty of making fun of the Hoosiers football program and thinking it is inferior to the Illini program. Looking at the schedules, they don't look all that different. Illinois has one win, coming against Division 1-AA Illinois State. Indiana has one win, coming against Division 1-AA Indiana State. That comparison hits a little too close to home. This game might be considered a must win for the Illini.
Saturday, November 15 – Off week Las Vegas is already reporting that the Illini will be a 7-point underdog for this game.
Saturday, November 22 – vs. Northwestern (2-4, 0-2) The home field advantage of Memorial Stadium shouldn't play a factor in this match up. With the way this season has gone, the Illini and the Wildcats will play in front of 30,000 of their closest friends and family. Illinois fans will be immersed in basketball season by this point. Northwestern fans will be immersed in the debate team season. Buy your tickets today for this Illini win.
After shooting bogeys for most of the first half of the season, the Fighting Illini need some birdies and a couple of eagles to reach a bowl game this year. However, the Illini are most likely staying in Champaign-Urbana for the holidays, where it is hard to play golf at that time of year. The scorecard will most likely read 3-9 as Illinois heads back to the clubhouse.