College football writer and AP voter Bob Asmussen’s musings after the first full day of the season
— A good day at Memorial Stadium? Well, the rain stayed away, and all of the band instruments were accounted for. That’s the good news.
Now for the reality check: Southern Illinois isn’t very good, yet it almost shocked Tim Beckman’s second team.
Beckman, like any coach in his situation, looked at the sunny side.
“I felt great about this football team. I guess you feel like a father, to be honest with you,” Beckman said. “I’m just excited to be around them.”
The kids weren’t all right Saturday. Too close a game against a team they should have rolled over.
“Dad” might be about to dish out some extra chores.
Star linebacker Jonathan Brown is listening to him. That’s a start.
“He’s definitely a leader,” Brown said. “He’s done some things to help us improve.”
— Illinois is a long, long way from thinking about a bowl game. But you can’t get to six wins without getting to one.
New offensive coordinator Bill Cubit certainly didn’t show all of his tricks in a game the coaches had to figure would end up in the left-hand column.
Illinois doesn’t have the talent of most of its opponents (OK, none of them after Saturday). So, it can’t afford slow starts in a half, which happened twice Saturday. You go into the locker room with momentum and come out flat. Do that against Cincinnati and the Bearcats will win in a blowout. Of course, the game is winnable. They all are. But you can’t rely on breaks from a team that won 10 games a year ago. And trust this, Tommy Tuberville wants to make a statement, one that might move his team into the Top 25.
— Coaches love to have things to complain about, and Saturday’s game provided Beckman with plenty. He can start with special teams, which needs to remember the word “tackle.” And missed field goals will drive the guys in Illini polo shirts crazy.
Oh, and penalties on big plays. Extra sprints for everybody, even the reporters.
— Once upon a time, Urban Meyer had Chris Leak at quarterback and still found a way to use Tim Tebow. Sometimes, the starter needs to give up a few plays. That might be the case at Illinois for Nathan Scheelhaase. Aaron Bailey showed the special skills that made him the top player in the Illini recruiting class. His workload should increase as he gets more comfortable in Cubit’s offense.
— There was an audible groan in the press box when the official attendance (42,175) was announced. Reporters are a cynical crew. The actual in-the-seat-number was probably closer to 30,000. Does it really matter? Not really. Newcomers might not believe it, but the school once filled more than 75,000 seats.
On the Big Ten
— Maybe Kevin Wilson can turn it around at Indiana. The Hoosiers got off to a nice start Thursday, scoring a stadium-record 73 points against Larry Bird-less Indiana State. Remember that the Sycs are an FCS school, so Indiana has much more to prove. But a win is a win is a win. And we love the new helmets.
— As predicted, the Boilermakers got clubbed Saturday and have the look of a 2-10 team. Maybe it wasn’t Danny Hope’s fault after all. It could just be that it’s hard for the Boilers to win when there isn’t a Drew Brees-type quarterback roaming the campus. Oh, well, basketball is right around the corner.
— Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State played like they’re supposed to on Saturday, scoring convincing wins against lesser teams. After Week 1, Braxton Miller looks like a Heisman favorite, although he might need help on defense.
— The North Dakota State fans were right, their team did belong on the field with Kansas State. The FCS power pulled a major upset Friday night, stunning the Wildcats in Manhattan. The Bison chewed up the final minutes of the game on the winning drive.
It shows you that the margin of difference between the FBS and FCS is shrinking by the day.
Every time one of those upsets happens, it gives nervous FBS coaches another example to use with their teams. All across the country, coaches are saying, “You see what happened to K-State? That could be us. No slacking.” That will work, until it happens again.
— With the Wildcats moving out of my Top 25, I’m looking seriously at Mississippi. The comeback win against Vanderbilt wasn’t earth-shaking, but the Rebels show promise.
N-G favorite Hugh Freeze put together a stellar recruiting class, and it’s paying off already.
All-Stater Laquon Treadwell is going to be catching passes in the NFL, probably sooner than Freeze wants.
— Looks like a change is imminent at UConn. Hard to imagine Paul Pasqualoni surviving after Thursday’s loss to Towson. That’s the kind of game that gets you fired.
It was a curious hire in the first place, with the Huskies looking to the former Syracuse boss to replace Randy Edsall. A younger guy would have been more appropriate.
Now the school will have to make another hire against the backdrop of an uncertain conference future. Strong candidates will not line up in Storrs.
— Tough start for North Carolina, aka Illinois East. The Heels dropped a weather-interrupted opener to South Carolina. The good news is they did a solid job against Jadeveon Clowney, making him look human.
North Carolina is a team you can root for thanks to a bucket-full of Illini connections. The coaching staff includes ex-Illinois staffers Larry Fedora, Dan Disch, Vic Koenning and Keith Gilmore. N.C. will win a bunch of games and contend for the ACC title.
— A half-game suspension? What a joke.
A lawyer friend thinks only the most naive of college football fans believe Johnny Manziel didn’t profit from signing autographs. I agree. Maybe the new-look NCAA is going to ignore violations by superstars. A stronger punishment would get the ookey taste out of our mouths.