SOC - Wisconsin 2022
My ears are still ringing. We went to a place called World Of Beer tonight and at 9:30 pm it turned into World Of Clubbin' because the lights turned off, the laser lights hit the ceiling, and the ooonch-ooonch-ooonch-ooonch hit the speakers. If you don't believe me, here:
Of course, it apparently didn't annoy us too much because that video was at 10:36 and it started at 9:30 so we stayed for over an hour in that environment. Which is why my ears are ringing. Which is why I started this SOC by telling you that my ears are ringing. You're all caught up.
Here's where I am with this game. No more stalling - right to it:
It's really hard to win on the road at Wisconsin. Yes, they just lost at home to Washington State. Yes, they were just destroyed by Ohio State. But it's still really hard to win on the road at Wisconsin.
I've said it this way when talking to people this week. Say it's 2027 and the program is completely rebuilt. Illinois won the Big Ten West in 2026 (if there's still a Big Ten West in 2026). There was a 7-win season followed by a 9-win season. The program we've dreamed about is right there in front of our eyes.
And then we have a road game scheduled at Wisconsin. Are you confident in winning that game? Or are you thinking that the road game at Wisconsin is one of the three losses you're anticipating that season? I don't feel like I'd be confident at all, even when expecting a nine win season, so why should I be confident this year when the rebuild is in year two?
We haven't been tested yet. We were semi-tested against Indiana (and failed), but we haven't been tested tested. I just worry about what this looks like when we're tested. I don't think that means "we'll fall apart during the first real test and lose 38-3", but I'm not sure we're ready for every test.
Maybe I can explain my thoughts that way. We're getting better grades. We're doing well on our quizzes. It feels like the days of "56% - F" are over. We're no longer at risk of failing the class.
But we're also not going to get an A on every test from here on out. We hope to eventually be an A student, but you don't just go from being a D+ student to an A student overnight. You have to work your way up.
And as we work our way up, I'm just not sure that this is a test we can pass. An angry Wisconsin team coming home to play Illinois, trying to get their season on track? We've been that "just what we needed" balm for so many opponents over the last 25 years. Are we thinking that we're all-of-the-sudden no longer that team?
I mean, right now, the Washington-UCLA game is on in the background. Washington is trying to rebuild under Kalen DeBoer. And things have been quite promising so far. 4-0, a big win over Michigan State (but is it a big win?), and ranked 15th in the polls. UCLA is undefeated but things have been shaky - they needed a field goal as time expired to beat South Alabama by one. This should be a game where Washington sets the tone and holds UCLA well below their season average.
Current score as I'm typing this: UCLA 40, Washington 16.
Even teams that start the season 4-0 and climb to #15 in the polls then go on the road and get a C- on the test (well, that score there is more of an F). It's just really hard to play 12 really solid football games. Every season for nearly every team has ups and downs, wins and losses, surges and retreats. Doesn't it feel like a game at Camp Randall will be a retreat?
Bottom line, if we win at Wisconsin tomorrow, don't we then have to talk about possibly winning every other game on the schedule besides Michigan? I'm not saying we'd be favored in every game besides Michigan - just saying that we'd have to start discussing "could Illinois finish the season with six wins in the final seven games?" If you beat Wisconsin at Wisconsin, you can beat Iowa and Minnesota at home. And win on the road at Nebraska and Northwestern.
Are you ready to have that discussion? I'm not. This is year two of the rebuild. There will be ups and downs between here and where we want to be. For whatever reason - maybe it's the fact that I was in my 20's the last time we won at Wisconsin and I turn 50 in a few months - I just can't find the confidence that we can come into this stadium and walk out with a win. Doesn't mean anything as far as the rebuild goes - it's just... another loss at Wisconsin.
So I see this game as being competitive, but I also see this game as a loss. Regroup, beat Iowa, and set up a big showdown at home with sudden Big Ten West favorite Minnesota. I'd love to go 2-1 over these next three weeks, and if we do that, I think the loss is in Madison, not Champaign. So I'm going with...
Wisconsin 27, Illinois 17