With the Illinois football season a little more than halfway done, now is a good time to reflect on the season thus far and figure out what the team is doing right and what they need to improve on as the season moves forward.
The Illini started off the season well with a record of three wins and only one loss. Their wins against Southern Illinois and Miami (OH) were very convincing and the big win came against a quality Cincinnati opponent 45-17. The lone loss in the first four games came in a close game against a top 25 ranked Washington team at Soldier Field in Chicago.
But then the Big Ten season began and all went downhill for the Illini. Blowout losses to Nebraska in Lincoln and 22nd ranked Wisconsin at home got them off to a bad start, and a 42-3 shellacking by Michigan State (7-1) just kept the trend going.
While some people point to the defense as the problem, some people are quick to blame the quarterback play of senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. But the stats suggest that the real problem is both of them. The defense is allowing 33.7 points per game, which is 104th in the nation out of 125 teams. They have allowed more than 30 points in all but two games this season, and that includes 34 points to FCS opponent Southern Illinois. But the defense is not the only problem. The statistics show that the team’s success is directly correlated to the individual success of Nathan Scheelhaase. Raw QBR is a stat that determines the overall performance of a quarterback during a game depending on everything he does on the field. The stat is on a 0-100 scale, with 50 being average. In Illinois’s three wins, Scheelhaase has an average of 81, which would make him the eleventh best quarterback in the country according to QBR. But in Illinois’s four losses he averages a 34, which would make him the 115th best quarterback in the nation.
Even with those stats, the season is nowhere near over, as in their final five games, they only face one ranked opponent. With games against rivals Indiana and Northwestern on the horizon, it is a toss-up as to which team will come out on top. Games on the road against a poor Purdue team and in the hostile environment of Happy Valley against Penn State are two more opportunities for wins. The Illini will have to capitalize on every opportunity they get to pick up three more wins and finish the season at .500 to receive a postseason bowl selection.