Football pick ‘em week one: Youngstown State
It’s game week!
Ok, ok. It’s Illini football game week. But still, you can’t help but be happy the college football (and the prognosticating that comes along with it) is back. I love the thought of a community essentially shutting down each Saturday to rally around one cause.
So when it comes to this year’s Illini squad, I’ll begin with the million dollar question that I and beat writers everywhere have heard since November: does Tim Beckman need a bowl game to keep his job? I’ve thought about that question a lot, and at this point I’m leaning toward an answer of “no, but with little wiggle room.” The first half of the schedule sets up well for the O & B this year with anything less than four wins putting the heat on the coaching staff. Sneak in a win or two in the latter half of the slate, and things aren’t looking too bad. Tank the second half of the season, and the rumor mill starts to swirl again.
By the way…an interesting note from the football record book: the Illini’s last five coaches have reached a bowl game in their third year at the helm. Maybe coincidence, maybe a sign that year three is the special one.
What am I keeping an eye on between the lines? Well there’s a reason Matt Daniels listed Wes Lunt as the most important Illini this year. It’ll be a change of pace from the running quarterbacks of the past eight years or so, but if the rave reviews about Lunt’s spirals hold true in game action, Illini fans will have something to cheer for. I expect another big year from Josh Ferguson, and reports out of training camp indicate that the newcomers to the offense will be up to speed sooner rather than later.
Now, let’s turn our attention to this week’s Gotham City showdown…
I joke, but if you’re stacking up FSC teams in terms of historical program performance, the ‘Guins are probably near the top. The word “historical” is a key one in that last sentence, though, as YSU has been playoff-less since 2006. But, they can claim Jim Tressel as a native son…if that sort of thing scares you. Last year’s 8-4 squad was pretty balanced between pass and run. And a report I found on a recent preseason scrimmage indicated that the Penguins defense may be ahead of the offense and that, like Illinois, a starting quarterback (Dante Nania) has been crowned but others may be in play.
YSU head coach Eric Wolford, who spent a couple years at Illinois, made an appearance on WDWS’ Saturday SportsTalk over the weekend. He referred to the Youngstown community as needing a “shot in the arm” and reminisced a bit about his time in #Chambana.
But let’s be real here…Illinois has never lost to an FSC team, and that won’t change on Saturday.
My prediction: Illinois 34, Youngstown State 13
So if you missed syllabus week and are wondering how all this works, click here for a refresher. I need this week’s pick from you by 11 a.m. Saturday either via comment on this blog or in an e-mail. Let your pickin’ skills run wild, brother!
Coming up Saturday: Youngstown State thoughts, standings, and Western Kentucky predictions
[Teitsma photo via TheEllenShow on Youtube, penguin photo via Warner Bros.]