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College Football – Meet the Illinois Fighting Illini

Coach Ron Zook’s Illinois team took the Big Ten by storm last year, tying with Michigan for the runner-up spot at 6-2, and going 9-3 in the regular season. The Fighting Illini from Champaign got ahead by sneaking up on some opponents.

Then they arrived at the Rose Bowl to face Southern California and took about 49 shots to the head with a ball-peen hammer as the Trojans won going away, 49-17. Last year Illinois finished at No. 20 in the final AP Poll. All of last year’s fight and hype moved Illinois into this year’s AP Top 25 Poll.

The Illini, currently ranked No. 22, have no business being in AP’s Top 25, and will probably figure ข่าวฟุตบอลทั้งหมด that out after visiting No. 16 Penn State at Happy Valley next weekend (9-27-08). They have a bye this weekend and will need all of the extra time to get ready to face Jo Pa’s (Joe Paterno’s) Nittany Lions.

Teams that did well last year generally get a free pass into the AP Top 25 the following year. Whether they maintain the ranking is another question. In Illinois’ case, while they are currently No. 22 in the AP Poll, the Sagarin football ratings puts them at No. 66, where they belong.

The AP Top 25 Poll is determined each week by 64 influential sportswriters around the country. It can be argued that it is a popularity poll. Jeff Sagarin’s NCAA Football Ratings uses a scientific, statistical analysis to determine the pecking order for the 245 teams in Division I-A (119 teams) and I-AA (the rest). Sagarin’s ratings are the gold standard.

Part of Illinois’ No. 66 rating at the moment is because the Fighting Illini have played a weak schedule of opponents, the 106th weakest schedule rank in the country to be exact. Sure, the Illini opened with Missouri (not exactly a walk in the park) but they also have squared off against Eastern Illinois (rated 157th) and Louisiana-Lafayette (rated 128th), not exactly college football powerhouses.

Here is also a news flash for the Fighting Illini, who gave up an average of 30 points to their first 3 opponents: You cannot give up 30 points a game and win a lot of games against good teams. Last year Illinois gave up 21 points per game and still won 9 games. This year the Illini defense gave up 52 points in losing to Missouri in their opener. Missouri is currently ranked No. 5 in the AP Poll.

The road ahead for Ron Zook’s Illini is interesting as they must face Penn State (currently 3-0), Michigan (1-2), Minnesota (3-0), Indiana (2-0), Wisconsin (3-0), Iowa (3-0), Ohio State (2-1) and Northwestern (3-0). The combined record of these opponents is 20-3 at the moment.

Zook just might get snookered before he sneaks up on anyone this year.

If you are wondering, the next 5 most overrated teams currently in the AP Poll are Fresno State, South Florida, Clemson, Kansas and Missouri (yes, Missouri). The two most underrated teams are Penn State and Brigham Young (BYU).

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Read my other detailed, knowledgeable, interesting articles on college football, including:

“College Football’s First Controversial Call of 2008 May Have Cost Washington a Huge Upset”

“College Football – It Is Going to Be a Very Long Season for Washington’s Football Program”

“Michigan State’s Javon Ringer Scores Five Times in 42-10 Victory Over Eastern Michigan”

“For the Michigan State Spartans, 7 Has Become a Very Uncomfortable Number”

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