Friday, November 11, 2011

Who Are You and Why Do We Care?: Illinois Fighting Illini

Is there a rivalry here?
Similar to Iowa, Illinois is not a team Michigan has a traditional rivalry with. In 92 all-time games, Michigan has a 67-23-2 record. Even Rich Rodriguez beat them once, although that game had a score like a basketball game. Coincidentally that leads me into...

When did we see them last?
Last year the Illini entered the Big House and put up 65 points in a losing effort. The highest scoring game in Michigan football history was won in triple overtime by the good guys 67-65. On the Illinois side, Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 211 yards, ran for 101, and scored four total touchdowns. Mikel Leshoure ran for 120 yards on 24 carries and caught two passes for 52 yards, totaling five touchdowns. While those numbers seem ridiculously high, Michigan had some tremendous performances of its own. Denard threw for 305 yards and 3 touchdowns while running for 62. Tate had to come to come in as a back up, and he threw for 114 and two touchdowns. They combined for three interceptions. The player of the game for Michigan was Roy Roundtree who set a Michigan record for most yards in a game with 246 and two touchdowns. Fellow receiver Junior Hemingway also had a very solid game with yards and two touchdowns. This game featured no defense until the last play of the game. GERG dialed up the blitz on the two-point conversion in triple-overtime, and Scheelhaase couldn't do anything with the ball, and the game was over. 

What do they look like?
Their official colors are "Illinois Orange" and "Illinois Blue." Here is a sample of each of their current uniforms, and here is what they look like on football players standing indoors. They are a Nike school so they have lots of piping and weird stripes and such. Nike liked these uniforms so much that they copied them with slightly less piping for Virginia

Have they had good coaches?
Well Bob Zuppke was probably pretty good. As Head Coach from 1913-1941, Illinois went 131-81-12 including four National Championships and seven Big Ten Championships. Now, Ron Zook is the man in charge. Zook was the head coach at the University of Florida from 2002-2004, was fired before the end of the season. Florida let him coach the rest of the season, and Zook took the job at Illinois before the Peach Bowl. Since arriving at Illinois, Zook has gone 34-48. In 2008, the Illini went to the Rose Bowl, but got blown out by the Trojans of USC. 

Have they won any Big Ten or National Championships?
As I previously mentioned, Zuppke won four National Championships in his career at Illinois. The most recent National Championship was won in 1951. The Illini have won 15 Big Ten Championships, winning most recently in 2001. 

Where do they play?
Memorial Stadium was opened in 1923. Here are some pictures of what it looks like. According to the University, during construction of the stadium, "a rainy season caused a bulldozer to sink into what became the football field." It is still there to this day. Also, miscellaneous white man with fro in front of the scoreboard

Do they have a goofy mascot?
Not anymore... Here's Chief Illiniwek's last dance:
(If you notice, this was a game against Michigan)

For years, Illinois used the Chief Illiniwek head as their main logo. In 1926, the assistant director of bands wanted a Native American war dance during halftime of football games. Starting in the mid-1970s the Chief was subject of much debate over its political correctness. In 2006, it was decided that Chief Illiniwek could no longer be the official university symbol. 

Michigan needs a win this week. This could be the difference between a 7-5 season and a 9-3/10-2. This game is essentially the same for Illinois. They will come out strong, but Mattison's defense should shut down their offense, and Denard should make few enough mistakes. Prediction based on everything but football: Michigan 28 - Illinois 24.

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