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Head Coach: Ron Zook (2-9,1 year; 25-23 overall, 4 years) 2005 Record: 2-9, 0-8/11th Big Ten
Location: Champaign, IL Turf: Artificial Capacity: 69,249 Seating Chart:
Illinois has won fifteen Big 10 Titles including 2001 when they went a stunning 10-1 and were ranked #7 defeating 3 ranked teams before losing in the Sugar Bowl. It was their first outright B10 Title since 1983. Since then the Illini are just 11-35. They have finished above .500 in Big 10 play just once since 1994. They went a respectable 4-4 in conf play in 2002 but since then are 1-23 in Big 10 play and have been outgained in conference play in those seasons by 161.3 ypg, 132.9 ypg and a league worst 170.5 ypg in 2005. Last year they had just 4 senior starters (2nd lowest in the NCAA) and of Zook's 51 players that played vs Iowa last year, 32 were underclassmen as he went with a younger team. His 12 frosh and soph starters were the most in the Big 10. Zook's squad opened up 2-p and led Cal 17-7 at the half and 17-14 after 3Q's but after blowing that lead, they were noncompetitive in Big 10 play finishing dead last at 0-8. Penn St led them 56-3 at the half. Their best league effort was vs Wisconsin when they outgained the Badgers 538-464 but thanks to a blocked punt and 2 missed FG's, lost by 17. The Illini were -11 in TO's (See Turnovers=Turnaround) and also had some poor ypp's last year which usually signals a better record the next year (pg 299). They also have the most returning starters in the Big 10 (19) and are a much more veteran team and now in the second year of Zook's systems. The Illini took on the 4th toughest schedule in the country (pg 317). The Illini have 10 seniors, 32 juniors, 30 soph and 19 frosh in for the spring. The Illini only avg'd 17 ppg (11.8 in B10) and with 9 starters back on that side of the ball, should be much more potent in 2006. The defense allowed a Big 10 record 435 points and an NCAA worst 5.5 ypc rushing while also ranking #118 in my pass D rankings. There really is just one way to go with those numbers and with 10 returning starters they will have a much improved defense. Last year was the first time the Illini did not have a player drafted since 1972 (only B10 team to get shutout)! This should be one of the most improved teams in the country and I look for the Illini to at least double last year's win total and escape the basement of the Big 10.
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