Without question the 2012 football season for the Illinois Fighting Illini and first-year coach Tim Beckman was an unmitigated disaster.
To put it simply, this team was virtually unwatchable.
The Illini concluded their miserable season by getting pummeled 50-14 against in-state rival Northwestern last Saturday. The loss extended their losing streak to nine games and gave them a final record of 2-10, which included an 0-8 record in the Big Ten.
If the record itself isn't enough to make you sick as an Illini fan, just take a look at some of the numbers.
In their 10 losses this season, Illinois was outscored 378-132. In other words they lost by an average score of almost 38-13.
Really? This is supposed to pass as competitive?
That's just flat out brutal. And believe it or not, it gets worse.
The Illini finished the season dead last in the Big Ten in both scoring and total offense. In addition, they also finished next to last in scoring defense and 10th in total defense.
So basically they had the worst offense and pretty close to the worst defense in the conference, which makes it fairly tough to win I would say.
How were the special teams you ask? Well here's a stat for you. The Illinois punt return unit finished dead last in the conference with an average of 1.6 yards per return.
Honestly, that's actually so bad that it's just funny.
Oh, but there's more.
Illinois also finished dead last in turnover margin, sacks given up and red-zone offense efficiency.
Despite all of this, the Illini did actually lead the conference in average yards per punt, which I'm guessing is because of the fact that they got more practice at it than everyone else.
To be honest, Beckman couldn't have asked for a worse way to start his tenure at Illinois. He and his staff really didn't do anything to make Illini nation feel like they really have a football program and it was reflected in the attendance.
The average attendance at Memorial Stadium has now fallen for each of the past five seasons and that trend is likely to continue into next year.
The Illini fan base is quickly dwindling and it should be—there is nothing to see.
Why would people pay to see this mess?
You could say that by now Illinois football fans should be used to this type of season. After all, over the past 20 years the Illini have only had seven winning seasons.
However, that still doesn't make it any easier to accept losing.
But the sad reality of the situation is that Illinois football is basically insignificant at this point.
Now it goes without saying that a coach typically needs more than one year to prove what he can do, but for Tim Beckman it's going to be an uphill battle and when I say uphill, I mean Mt. Everest.
This year's team simply looked listless and out of it's league almost each and every week. They had no real weapons on offense and a defense that just completely underachieved.
For a team that finished 7-6 in 2011 and was returning a majority of its starters to fall to 2-10 the next season should definitely raise some red flags.
AD Mike Thomas took a chance on Beckman and it certainly appears that may have been a mistake. Then again, he didn't have many choices because no one else really wanted the job.
And that right there is the root of the problem at Illinois. At this point it is not a school that can attract a proven big name football coach.
And because of that they really can't attract any of the top talent to Champaign either. It's a sad state of affairs that doesn't look to have a glimmer of hope in the near future.
Thomas recently gave Beckman a vote of confidence by stating that Beckman would return next season as the Illinois head coach, much to the disappointment of many Illini fans I'm sure.
I wouldn't expect much improvement next season.
The fact of the matter is that at this point Illinois isn't even one of the top two football programs in the state despite being the biggest school.
With all due respect to Northwestern, the distinction of the best team in the state belongs to Northern Illinois University.
NIU coach Dave Doeren has gone 22-4 in his first two seasons in Dekalb and has the Huskies in the MAC championship game for the second year in a row. In addition NIU has won 16 consecutive conference games, which is the longest such streak in the nation.
I'm not even sure Illinois would have finished .500 in the MAC conference.
There's no doubt that these are two programs headed in opposite directions.
The good news for Thomas and Illini fans is they may have found themselves a basketball coach in John Groce.
It's still early in the season, but Groce has the hoops team playing some inspired ball. The same cannot be said for Beckman's football team.
Unlike Groce, Beckman's guys just never seemed to buy into his system and that's a problem that's not easily fixed.
My advice to Illini fans is to forget football—which shouldn't be hard to do—and enjoy your basketball team.
Because once again that's really all you've got.
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