With Saturday’s convincing victory over Indiana, the Fighting Illini football team is now off to a 6-0 start, ranked No. 16 in the country, and have made it known that they are for real this year.
It’s really no surprise that the Illini offense has been able to put up some pretty solid numbers thus far. They were expected to be able to move the ball and score some points with the return of sophomore QB Nathan Scheelhaase, senior wide out A.J. Jenkins, a solid group of backs, and an experienced offensive line.
However, on the defensive side of the ball there was definitely some cause for concern. The Illini lost All-Big 10 performers Martez Wilson and Corey Liuget as well as starters Nate Bussey and Clay Nurse, who were both big contributors last year.
So heading into this season the big question being posed by many fans and critics was this: how are the Illini going to stop anybody?
Well, to this point in the season the Illini defense has silenced those people by answering that very question—and in very impressive fashion I might add.
Let me throw some quick numbers at you:
Currently the Illini defense ranks 17th in the nation in points per game, allowing only 17.8 points. They also rank 15th in the nation in total defense, giving up only 296.7 yards per game, which includes allowing only 79.7 yards per game on the ground – good for 9th in the nation.
In addition to that, with their five sacks on Saturday against Indiana, the Illini now rank 1st—yes that’s first—in the nation with 22 sacks and are averaging 3.67 sacks per game, which puts them at 6th in the country.
Pessimists will tell you that these numbers are skewed because Illinois hasn’t played great competition thus far. Say what they will; the bottom line is they are getting the job done.
Coming into the season there were a lot of question marks on this Illini defense, but they are starting to make a name for themselves and here are a few of the reasons why.