Thousands of Illini football fans missed a thriller Saturday.
Tens of thousands, actually.
Outside Memorial Stadium, cars moved along freely and parking lots displayed openings unseen in decades. Forty minutes before kickoff, one observer called the west parking area a desert.
Penn State comes to Memorial Stadium on Saturday with a 6-4 record and, by NCAA decree, newly bowl eligible.
Fact is, for all the outcries that the program was “emasculated and humiliated” after severe July 2012 sanctions, the Nittany Lions continued to draw large crowds as they finished 8-4 and 7-5 under Joe Paterno’s successor, Bill O’Brien.
OK, I’ll say it: Early-season college basketball scheduling stinks.
Major programs have become so adept at “scheduling victories” that three developments are on the horizon:
Coppin State’s travelers ran into a wintry storm at the State Farm Center on Sunday night.
John Groce’s Illini were wearing the same numbers as they did Friday night but those numbers added up differently.
For those who somehow maintain the faith that Tim Beckman can turn this stampede of failure, there were precious few indicators Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Iowa played “Iowa football” and methodically hammered the Illini into submission 30-14.
Historically speaking, most successful Big Ten football teams have been constructed to handle the Midwest’s windy, freezing temperatures of November.
Perimeter marksmen abound in college basketball. And Illinois just added two of the best three-point shooters in Jalen Coleman-Lands and Aaron Jordan who, along with Simeon’s versatile, 6-foot-7 D.J. Williams, will be rising UI sophomores when Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill are seniors.
Twelve humans will determine the four college football teams to compete for the national championship.
One problem: Humans are imperfect — yes, all of us — and have never been able to apply proper weight to football losses that occur in September compared to losses in November.
There’s a tenacity about Tracy Abrams that carried over to the defensive end of the basketball court. The Illini team will miss the injured senior in that respect this season.
Basketball provides no points for rebounds, no points for passes. The only way to score is to tickle the cords.
And this is where Illinois appears to be most improved as John Groce leads a veteran team against Quincy in today’s 7 p.m. exhibition opener.