Illinois Football: Once-Promising Season Now Just a Distant Memory

Todd ThorstensonAnalyst INovember 14, 2011

Turn out the lights Illini fans, the party's over.

After last Saturday's 31-14 loss to Michigan, the Illini have now dropped four straight games after starting the season with six straight victories. Not only that, but with the way they are playing there is a good chance that they will finish the season with six straight losses and end up at 6-6, which would be the same record as last year.

It's been a tale of two seasons for the Illini as they have been finding ways to lose games after finding ways to win them in their first six contests.

Most of the blame lies with the offense who has failed to score a single point in the first half of all four losses, and has only put up 42 points overall during that span.

I'm not going to lie, it's been nauseating to watch the Illini defense play solid almost every week, only to have the offense do absolutely nothing to help them out. 

It's as if Ron Zook and offensive coordinator Paul Petrino have absolutely no game plan every week. They continue to come out flat, run the same predictable plays, do nothing and expect their defense to somehow bail them out.

Here's an idea, maybe draw up a passing play that goes to someone other than A.J. Jenkins. I know the guy is an All-American, but I think the opposing defenses may have figured out the plan of throwing it to him on every play. 

The return game on special teams has also been abysmal. The Illini have had 12 punt returns in Big Ten play this season for a total of 20 yards, which pencils out to less than two yards per return for those of you that have difficulty with math.

Really, not even two yards per return? I'm pretty sure that you could trip and fall forward for at least three yards—that is just hard to believe. 

And they aren't any better on kickoff returns, where they rank last in the conference in yards per return at 13.9.

When your team is already having trouble moving the ball and scoring points, and then you add to that a non-existent return game, then what you get is one tired defense.

The Illini defense—which still leads the Big Ten allowing only 289 yards per game in conference play—has been great all year, but they just haven't gotten any help.

Honestly, Illinois could realistically be 10-0 at this point in the season had they gotten anything offensively over the past four games, but instead they sit at 6-4 and have become completely insignificant.

It's just been tough to watch—and at this point I don't know how many people are going to be watching anymore.

Does anyone honestly think that Illinois has a shot to beat Wisconsin this Saturday? I'm guessing not.

If they somehow manage to win their last two games, they will have a chance at a decent bowl game with a record of 8-4.

However, more realistic thinking has the Illini finishing at 7-5 or 6-6, and if that's the case nobody really cares what bowl they go to.

Yes, they will be headed to back to back bowl games for the first time in 20 years, but it could have been so much more.

Let the "Fire Ron Zook" campaign begin.

It's time for me to switch over to basketball season.