While beat writer MATT DANIELS is still trying to comprehend how Illinois nearly let SIU leave Memorial Stadium with a win, here are three items he learned from Saturday.
Strength of schedule
It escalates pretty quickly for Illinois. Cincinnati throttled Purdue 42-7 and Washington whacked Boise State 38-6 on Saturday. Not good news for Illinois, especially if Tim Beckman’s team doesn’t make rapid improvements in many areas the next two weeks. The next two opponents for Illinois clicked offensively and defensively on Saturday, making a strong case for a possible spot in the Top 25 polls before September ends. Cincinnati quarterbacks Munchie Legaux and Brendon Kay (Illinois defensive coordinator Tim Banks will have to prepare his unit for both) and Washington quarterback Keith Price probably can’t wait to play Illinois after seeing what Kory Faulkner did to the Illini.
State of mind
Barbara Burke needs to lock up Dino Babers. Now. Before an FBS team comes in and steals Eastern Illinois’ coach. Which will inevitably end up happening if he keeps up his work down in Charleston. Babers delivered the signature win so far in his second year with the Panthers, who handled San Diego State 40-19 Saturday night for another FCS program beating an FBS team. Sometime this NFL season, Tony Romo needs to let Marshall Faulk know who prevailed on Saturday. Northwestern and Northern Illinois both had impressive victories on the road, pushing Illinois farther down the totem pole when it comes to college football teams in this state, FBS or FCS.
Aaron Bailey’s role
After hedging about how Illinois wanted to use its highly touted freshman quarterback for most of August, Tim Beckman unveiled his plan. In limited exposures. Bailey ran twice for 6 yards, but both his runs were positive gains, a fact not all Illinois players who ran the ball Saturday can boast. Now a name for the Wildcat-like package Bailey is operating just needs to pop up. Who knows when Bailey’s first throw at Illinois will come. Right now it just seems Illinois will utilize his feet. “We put that type offense in for him to be successful doing,” Beckman said. “That’s what coaches are expected to do, in my opinion. Put players in games where they can be successful, and that’s what we did with Aaron. We know that he can run that power, and we know that he’s a freshman. We know that he might not be reading the coverages as well as he should right now only being with us for 29 days, but we know that he can play and help us.”