– Scratch those bowl thoughts. Illinois needs four wins in its final six games to play in Orlando, Fla., or Phoenix and will be an underdog in five of those games. Unless they improve tackling, play-calling and special teams in a jiffy, Illinois might have trouble even reaching the four-win mark.
As commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, Mike Slive felt the sting when unbeaten Auburn was denied a spot in the 2005 Bowl Championship Series title game. In his new role as BCS commissioner, Slive is open to idea to prevent similar controversy. With the season's first BCS poll due out Oct. 15, Slive took time to discuss Fox's involvement, the SEC's dominance and New Orleans' resurgence with News-Gazette sports editor Jim Rossow:
– It's OK to admit you're an Illinois football fan again.
– Juice Williams put up some wonderful numbers, throwing another long touchdown pass and rushing for 103 yards. But what we'll remember about his first win as a college quarterback was the way he handled himself on the game-winning drive. Clutch. Cool. Commanding. All the things you want your quarterback to be.
– There were too many incompletions, fumbles and interceptions. But what he lacked in efficiency, Juice Williams more than made up in potential. Ron Zook didn't name his starting quarterback after Saturday's game, but the question didn't really need to be asked. The freshman got better by the quarter, looking like he belonged in the Big Ten by 2 p.m. or so. By the time Indiana comes to town for homecoming, he'll be comfortable enough to make the alumni happy (for a change).
Gary Barta, a former quarterback at Divsion II power North Dakota State, now is quarterbacking one of the Big Ten's finest athletic departments. Bob Bowlsby's replacement as athletic director, the 43-year-old has plenty to brag about in football alone: a renovated Kinnick Stadium, a Top 15 program and a soughst-after coach. Always a sports nut — he dabbled in sportscasting before beginning a 19-year run in college administration — Barta will be among thousands of Hawkeyes fans at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Before he left, Barta chatted with sports editor Jim Rossow:
– The worst thing about Saturday's game wasn't the dropped passes, the fumbles or the penalties. It was the reaction from the Syracuse players afterward. To sum up, there was no doubt in their minds they would win. This from a team that had lost a school-record 11 games in a row, from a team that was a road underdog, from a team one would think might be lacking confidence entering Memorial Stadium. It's clear respect for Illinois football has dropped to a record low.
As usual, Richard Herman will spend Saturday rooting for the Illinois football team. Before the game, however, the Illinois chancellor will be cheered himself as he is recognized as a 2006 recipient of the prestigious Distinguished Eagle Award from the Boy Scouts of America. He joins heavy hitters like Neil Armstrong, Gerald Ford, Bill Bradley and Donald Rumsfeld as some of the best the Boy Scouts have had to offer. Herman took time out from his busy week leading up to Foundation Day to talk to sports editor Jim Rossow about the great outdoors, the new Memorial Stadium and Nancy Cantor.