Daniels: What we learned after Penn State

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Crammed in desk chairs like they’d find at lecture halls around the Illinois campus, the visiting media room tucked on ground level inside Beaver Stadium was likely the last place a handful of Illinois players wanted to find themselves Saturday afternoon. But they sat there or stood in the corners, patiently answering questions about yet another loss, this one a tough 24-17 overtime setback.

Illinois doesn’t have the best talent in the Big Ten. Probably not even in the top half of the 12-team league. Hence why they are 0-4 in league play. Yet they seem to handle the bumpy four-game losing streak the program is on in a mature, professional way. Sure, they’re upset they’re not winning. The losses haven’t made them lash out on a public stage, although we’ll see if that holds true if the losses continue to pile up.

“There are a lot of things we can come away with,” wide receiver Steve Hull said. “I think the first half, as bad as we played, there are definitely things as an offense we can learn from because we were moving the ball. We just had a hard time finishing drives. In the second half, we see the team we can be, and the team that we believe is what this team is really about, and that’s fighting and coming back and getting stops and putting the ball in the end zone.”

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Virginia is bad. Like really bad. Maybe not on a Purdue-like level, but Mike London’s seat is getting warmer with each passing day. Clemson still has a solid chance of playing in a BCS bowl, so it was expected the Tigers would come away with a win. But to lose 59-10 at home in a game in which Tajh Boyd went 24 of 29 for 377 yards in essentially one half certainly won’t help a coach,  especially one who already didn’t have the fan base too happy after posting two 4-8 seasons in his first three years.

The Cavaliers are a long way from when George Welsh roamed the sideline. By the time they arrive in Champaign — don’t hold your breath, though, because it’s not until 2022 — the whole program might look different. Same goes for Illinois. But if London finishes the season with lopsided losses like the one his squad endured Saturday, it’s a slim chance he’ll be around next year.

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He wasn’t a Michigan man. Whatever that means. His offense wouldn’t work in the Big Ten. He talked funny. All the flaws Rich Rodriguez had dissected during his brief tenure at Michigan aren’t getting overanalyzed out West. Of course, it helps when you’re winning, which is what the Arizona program Rodriguez now leads is doing.

The Wildcats are bowl eligible for the second consecutive year with Rodriguez as their coach after they held on to beat California, albeit a woeful Golden Bears team under first-year coach Sonny Dykes (the same one whose Louisiana Tech team walloped Illinois last year in Champaign). The real test for Rodriguez and Arizona is Saturday night, when they host UCLA. But you can imagine Rodriguez had to chuckle a bit when he saw what Brady Hoke had to endure during the Wolverines’ beatdown in East Lansing.
 

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