ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI
15 starters returning (8 on offense, 7 on defense)
3-8 overall record (1-7 in the Big Ten) & 5-5 ATS in 2004
No postseason in 2004
ASA’s take on the 2005 Illini: After winning just two games in the last two years vs. Division 1A competition, don’t expect new head man Ron Zook, formerly at Florida, to turn this around overnight. Illinois will struggle again this year and end up near (or at) the bottom of the Big Ten once again.
Zook will bring talent in because he can recruit. We were never really sold on his coaching ability at Florida. He will have much less pressure on him in Illini land. Give him a few years and Illinois should again be competitive. The QB position is unsettled. Junior Tim Brasic came out of the spring as the starter, however junior Chris Pazan (292 yards passing last season) has more experience and could get the nod.
The RB’s are actually very good. Co-starters E.B. Halsey and Pierre Thomas (over 1,350 yards combined) are back. The offensive line was bad last year and lost their top two blockers. This will be a problem area and that is not the problem area you want to have on your football team. The Illini will employ a new one back spread offense this season. Look for them to use a lot of no huddle on offense. After averaging just 17.5 PPG in conference play last year, we don’t expect Illinois to make a huge jump in that category. They will struggle to score points with a new system and no one that really stands out at the QB position.
The defense will employ a new 4 man front. The Illini have some fast and talented linebackers, however only two (Anthony Thornhill & Jeremy Leman) have meaningful game action and they were backups. Coming out of spring ball, the D-Line will start one senior, two sophomores and one freshman. This stop unit gave up almost 30 PPG last year (29.4) and will most likely struggle again this year. When all is said and done, we expect Illinois to be at (or near) the bottom of the Big Ten again in 2005.
ASA’s “POINTSPREAD BONUS” OBSERVATIONS ON ILLINOIS: The Illini are just 3-16 SU and 5-14 ATS as an underdog of less than 10 points. They are also just 6-16 ATS in their first “lined” game of the year the past 22 seasons.
18 starters returning (9 on offense, 9 on defense)
3-8 overall record (1-7 in the Big Ten) & 4-7 ATS in 2004
No postseason in 2004
ASA’s take on the 2005 Indiana: Indiana actually had a few “rays of hope” last year. They beat a very good Minnesota team, they won @ Oregon and they nearly beat Northwestern (lost in OT). New head man Terry Hoeppner (came from Miami of Ohio) is a very good coach. He never had a losing season in his 6 years at the helm for the Redhawks. The last two seasons his teams have been very impressive with an overall record of 21-5. It will take some time to get his systems in place and running, however don’t be surprised if Indiana pulls an upset or two this year. A
s with Illinois, QB could be a problem for the Hoosiers. Blake Powers completed just 41% of his passes last year in spot action. Graeme McFarland will battle Powers, however neither had a great spring. The receiving corp is REALLY thin. Jahkeen Gilmore had 300 yards receiving in 2004 and after that the Hoosiers really have no experienced wideouts. RB Chris Taylor (336 yards last year) had a great spring and could be a major Big Ten surprise running behind a veteran offensive front.
Indiana will employ a more aggressive attacking style of defense this season. The problem is, the defensive line wore down last season and is very thin again this year. They should do well at pressuring the QB but they are small up front. Kyle Killion is one of the better LB’s in the Big Ten, after that the Hoosiers have almost nothing at that position.
They have an easy schedule to start the season and could conceivably be 4-1 after their first 5 games. However, after that comes the meat of the schedule and they will struggle for the most part. A five win season isn’t out of the question, however that would still keep them at home for the holidays. Expect IU to improve on their 3-8 overall record last year, but not by much.
ASA’s “POINTSPREAD BONUS” OBSERVATIONS ON INDIANA: The Hoosiers seem to struggle late in the year as they are just 2-15 SU and only 3-14 ATS in games that begin after November 1st. This is since the start of the 1995 season.
12 starters returning (7 on offense, 5 on defense)
10-2 overall record (7-1 in the Big Ten) & 9-3 ATS in 2004
Iowa (+7) beat LSU 30-25 in the Capital One Bowl
ASA’s take on the 2005 Hawkeyes: Iowa will again be one of the best in the Big Ten. Their defense front could be a problem with almost ZERO experience. However, their backend on defense (linebackers and DB’s) will probably be the best in the conference. They also have the best (or second best) QB in the Big Ten with Drew Tate. He will operate behind a very experienced offensive line that is loaded with seniors.
The running game will improve dramatically. Iowa was 116th (out of 117) in rushing offense last year. That was due to a bevy of injuries. Near the end of the season, Iowa was down to their 5th string tailback who was a walk on. That bad luck won’t befall the Hawks again this year.
They also have the best coach in the Big Ten in Kirk Ferentz. If he can find a way to go 10-2 last year and beat LSU in a bowl game with absolutely NO rushing attack, he can surely keep the Hawks near or at the top of the Big Ten again this year. Iowa’s defense has always been tough under Ferentz and we expect it to be again this year.
Starting linebackers Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway form one of the best duo’s in the country with a whopping 555 career tackles combined. The same cannot be said for the defensive line. In fact, the projected starters coming out of spring have a combined 9 career tackles among them. If the inexperienced D-Line plays well, Iowa will be great on defense. Their secondary should also be among the best in the conference with two senior corners heading the group in Jovon Johnson and Antwan Allen. Starting strong safety Marcus Paschal, who was third on the team in tackles last year with 58, tore his ACL in Iowa’s bowl game last season. He hopes to be back for the start of the 2005 season although that is not a guarantee.
The schedule this year is tough (@Purdue, @Ohio State and @Wisconsin to name a few) but we expect them to battle for another BT Championship.
ASA’S “EXTRA” OBSERVATIONS ON IOWA: The Hawkeyes are 13-2 ATS when laying 10-points or more under Ferentz. Iowa has been golden as a home favorite going 26-8 ATS in that role the last 8 seasons.