Sept. 18 Bob Asmussen chat

Sept. 18 Bob Asmussen chat

Monday, September 18, 2017 - 10:00am

How did the Illini look against South Florida? What will the team do during the open week? Is the Big Ten going to get left out of the College Football Playoff?

For the answer to these questions, and anything else on your mind, check in with our Illinois football beat writer.

Bob Asmussen wrote on September 18, 2017 at 10:09 am
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmussen chat. I will be here for about an hour or so. Thanks as always for your participation.

No need to rush off to an Illinois press conference because there isn't one scheduled this week. The Illini are off Saturday. so my only tontact with the team will be on Tuesday. Next week goes back to normal and starts a stretch of nine consecutive games for the Illnii without a break. In a perfect world, the open week would be closer to the middle of the season instead of after three games. I am not in charge of Big Ten scheduling.

Not a good night for Lovie Smith's team in Tampa. You have to give a lot of credit to South Florida, which struggled in its first two games, but put it all together in the third. Quinton Flowers is really good and will give everyone fits this season. Seems like the Bulls are figuring out how to use him. The surprise to me was how good he was as a passer. He made big play after big play with his arm. Plus, he can run too.

It is a big week for the Big Ten, especially Purdue. If the Boilermakers beat Michigan at home, they should start on that Jeff Brohm statue in West Lafayette.

Enough stalling, time to get to your questions. 

Danny J wrote on September 18, 2017 at 10:09 am

Hi Bob,

Great work as always covering the football team. 

How do you think the quarterback situation will play out these next two weeks? Which quarterback do you think gives us the best chance to win?

With NIU upsetting Nebraska, do you think Illinois has a good chance of winning against them at home?

Do you think the way that they have played this non-conferences schedule is a boost or bust for their recruiting process?


Bob Asmussen wrote on September 18, 2017 at 10:09 am
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Danny J.,

I know what Lovie Smith said in the preseason about Chayce Crouch being the team's quarterback and leader. He should have added "Unless he doesn't play very well." And he hasn't.

Not all of it is his fault. Linemen need to block better. Receivers need to get open and catch the passes he throws. Running backs need to hit the holes and get every yard possible. But Crouch has to shoulder some of the blame. His passing has been erratic and he has not always made the right decisions.

Put me in charge for a day and Jeff George Jr. would be the starting quarterback against Nebraska. He is better at going through the progressions that are so vital to quarterbacks. And he has been trained by the best quarterback in school history. He isn't his dad, of course, but you see many of the same positive qualities. I think the other players have faith in George. Another reason to play him.

Here's another option that I think the Illini will consider: Cam Thomas. The freshman played well in the preseason and the team has two weeks to get ready for the next game. I don't think he will start against Nebraska, but I think the coaches will get him ready to play. The team has three quarterbacks coming in the next class. Might as well find out if Thomas is going to be in the mix. He might play very well.

Nebraska is struggling. I think it will have a hard time beating Rutgers at home this week. There is oodles of pressure on coach Mike Riley.

Right now, I am leaning toward picking the Illini against Nebraska. Giving George another week to prepare helps Illinois. My guess is that Lovie Smith will keep the decision within the team until Friday night.

I don't think there will be much impact on recruiting based on the nonconference results. To me, what happens next is what really matters. If the team is able to win three or four games in the conference, it will boost recruiting. If the team wins two or less, recruiting will suffer. The top players want to see proof that the taem is going in the right direction.


Anonymous User wrote on September 18, 2017 at 10:09 am

Guess you could have seen the loss at South Florida coming. Could you still see the possibility of four wins for a bowl game? I would have to say there is no chance for wins against Ohio State and Wisconsin(hurts to say that). But would you give the Illini a chance in the rest of the games? So far what I have seen is a potentially good defensive unit, but an offense that's lost and in need of more playmakers. The good thing is this freshman class will be better two years, even next year, from now. Get two more good classes in a row and we might have something. Think we need to fill out the rest of 2018's recruits with some higher profile recruits and start even beter with 2019's kids. 

Bob Asmussen wrote on September 18, 2017 at 10:09 am
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I thought all along that Illinois would be 2-1 at this point. I figured it would beat Western Kentucky because of the change in the coaching staff there. I predicted a 5-7 finish, with conference wins against Rutgers, Purdue and Minnesota. I know everyone is all fired up about P.J. Fleck at Minnesota because of the 3-0 start, but I remain unconvinced he is the right guy for the Gophers. The wins came against Oregon State, Buffalo and Middle Tennessee, which are a combined 3-7. If Minnesota beats a good team then maybe I will change my mind.

So I am sticking with an Illinois win against Minnesota. On the flip side, Purdue is a lot better, so beating the Boilermakers will be a challenge for Illinois. Sub a win against Nebraska for a win at Purdue and keep the Illinois season record at 5-7. Not quite a bowl, but an improvement over 3-9.

I agree with your ideas on recruiting. The staff needs to finish strong with the current class and add some difference-makers. That seems to be the plan. I think Lovie Smith will sign the bulk of his class early, then use the later date to bring in some top players. That will be easier if he can show improvement on the field, which I think will be the case.


Illini Kevin wrote on September 18, 2017 at 10:09 am

Bob what do you think will happen with the quarterbacks?

Bob Asmussen wrote on September 18, 2017 at 11:09 am
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Illini Kevin,

This seems to be the burning question this week. Going into the South Florida game, I didn't even consider the possibility that Chayce Crouch would be replaced. I wonder if Lovie Smith would have made the same change if Illinois had scored on its opening drive in the second half. Doubt it. But he could tell at that point that Crouch didn't have it and for the sake of the offense, he needed to do something.

Injuries dictated the changes in 2016, but the current staff seems willing to switch quarterbacks quickly. They don't have much patience for

struggling quarterbacks.

We shouldn't rule out the possibility that Crouch is impressive in practice the next two weeks and earns the starting spot against Nebraska. Honestly, going against Nebraska will be easier than the game at South Florida. The Bulls are very good defensively.

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. A year ago, the Ililni used three quarterbacks and I think that will be the case again this season.


Bob Asmussen wrote on September 18, 2017 at 11:09 am
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Wow, you were easy on me this week. Thanks as always for your great questions.

I will be back next Monday at the same time. If you have any questions between now and then, feel free to email me at at

If you are in downtown Champaign tonight, stop by The Esquire for "The News-Gazette Sports Page," Longtime columnist Loren Tate will be our guest.

Have a great week everyone.