Illinois: Not Quite Rose Bowl Material

Craig MessnerContributor IAugust 19, 2008

Deep down, even the most die-hard Fighting Illini fan knows it to be true; the Illini did not truly deserve last year's Rose Bowl bid.

Despite that fact, it was still a breakout season for the Illini. Going 9-4 a year after going 2-10 is certainly an accomplishment to be proud of, and is indicative of Ron Zook's recruiting prowess.

Yet when paired up with the mighty Trojans of USC, the Illini were simply outclassed, getting steamrolled in a barely watchable 49-17 romp.

Don't worry though Illini faithful, all is certainly not lost.

The Illini simply are not a BCS-caliber team this year. This, however, will certainly not bar them from having a successful season. 

The loss of Rashard Mendenhall and J Leman, among other starters from last season's successful team, is not something to take lightly; however, it is also no death sentence. 

Juice Williams has been constantly improving as a dual-threat quarterback since his freshman year, and looks to be one of the Big Ten's top quarterbacks this season.

Paired with gifted wide receiver Arrelious Benn, and a defense consisting of Vontae Davis, Brit Miller, an Martez Wilson, I would expect the Illini to win eight (at most nine) games.

With almost definite losses to Missouri and Ohio State, and probable losses at Penn State and Wisconsin, the Illini will go on to finish third in the Big Ten and gain a fairly major bowl bid.

Hey it's not the Rose Bowl, but I think it will do.