While beat writer MATT DANIELS is still trying to understand why Bret Bielema
left Wisconsin for Arkansas, here are three items he learned on Saturday:
1. Good bye
Having two bye weeks in a season isn’t a foreign concept for Illinois. The same scenario unfolded for the Illini during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Albeit the second bye came much later in both seasons than what Illinois is experiencing this year. The 2009 team lost both its games following the bye (30-0 at Ohio State on Sept. 26 and 49-36 at Cincinnati on Nov. 27) as did the 2010 squad (24-13 at home to Ohio State on Oct. 2 and 25-23 at Fresno State on Dec. 3). Illinois already snapped that trend this year, beating Miami (Ohio) soundly in the first game following the loss to Washington at Soldier Field. Beating Wisconsin is a far tougher task. The schedule doesn’t do any favors for Tim Beckman’s team.
“I think Nebraska played in that game last year that they call the championship game,” the Illinois coach said in reference to the Big Ten Title game the Cornhuskers lost 70-31 to Wisconsin. “We’ve gotten beat by two Top 25 football teams that are really good.”
By the time Illinois has its next Saturday off, travel plans for a bowl game could have materialized. Or a schedule of offseason workouts are in store.
All other Big Ten schools will experience two bye weeks this year as well. But all other Big Ten schools will have played at least two Big Ten games before getting its second bye week. Illinois will play the most consecutive Big Ten games (seven) without a bye of any Big Ten team and is the only school to play one conference game before the second bye week. Nebraska and Penn State will play six straight Big Ten games to end the season after both have their second bye week this Saturday. Ohio State, on the other hand, will only have to play three straight Big Ten games without a bye week interrupting that flow. The Buckeyes had their first bye this past Saturday and another coming up on Nov. 9.
“I’d probably rather have them a little more spread out,” Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase said. “Obviously we don’t really have much say-so over that, but I think it would be nice to have one a little later in conference play. It is what it is. It will be a good grind to go through.”
2. Basketball season yet?
The question might not pop up in the mind of Illinois fans for a few more weeks depending how home games against Wisconsin and Michigan State go. But it’s almost a lock Kansas supporters are counting down the hours, possibly minutes, until Bill Self’s team can play basketball. They have less than a month (Nov. 8 against Louisiana-Monroe) until Sports Illustrated cover guy Andrew Wiggins begins his NBA audition. Even when TCU is practically giving Kansas every opportunity to win a game — the Horned Frogs had five turnovers on Saturday — the Jayhawks still can’t leave with a Big 12 win. The conference losing streak is now at 23 games for the Jayhawks. And it doesn’t get any easier. Oklahoma and Baylor visit Lawrence the next two Saturdays. Charlie Weis, despite his apparent flaws as a college coach, will likely find himself calling plays high above an NFL stadium next fall. Weis’ unsuccessful tenure at Kansas has Jayhawk fans thinking the unthinkable. A return of Mark Mangino. Mangino won’t win any personality contests, but at least he won football games on a somewhat routine basis in Lawrence.
3. The Wolfpack
Maybe Dave Doeren can bring in Zach Galifianakis for some pregame speeches. Doeren probably can relate to all the injuries endured during “The Hangover” trilogy. The former Northern Illinois coach is wishing Jordan Lynch would show up at his front door. Injuries have not only wrecked havoc at quarterback for North Carolina State, but throughout his lineup. Doeren’s new team slipped to 0-3 in league action after a befuddling 24-10 loss to Syracuse, which gave the Orange its inaugural ACC victory. It doesn’t help matters when projected starters in August at quarterback, wide receiver, two offensive line spots, two defensive line spots and a defensive back are out of the lineup. Tim Beckman can relate to that feeling. Doeren didn’t get a chance to coach Northern Illinois against Florida State in last year’s Orange Bowl since he had already left DeKalb for the Wolfpack. He’ll get the opportunity now after a bye week. Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles head to Raleigh in two weeks.