SOC - Minnesota
I'm just going to be honest. I'm still broken. It's been nearly three weeks since the Eastern Michigan game, and I'm still destroyed. I missed the Nebraska game, had an entire bye week to recover, and not only am I not better, I'm a little worse. The last time a single loss took this much out of me - Missouri in 2009. Loss Of The Decade for me. Easily.
Let me see if I can explain. The majority of you are Cubs fans, so I'll use that. When Theo Epstein took over in 2011, there was a lot of excitement. But there were still detractors. Still the "same old Cubs - nothing will change" guys out there. Theo implements his plan, and some Cubs Robert out there was saying "patience, this is all part of a plan to win in the future" over and over. But as each season wore on without wins, the detractors got louder and louder with "same old Cubs - LOL at anyone who thought this time it'd be different". I'm sure they openly mocked Cubs Robert for his "just wait, this is all part of a plan".
It didn't turn around until midway through the 2015 season, but then it turned around. A late season surge into a Wild Card spot, a win in the Wild Card game, and then an NLDS win over the Cardinals. The NLCS was over quickly, but then the next year, a World Series title. 1908 no more.
And I'm sure Cubs Robert, whoever he is, felt pretty good about his "hold... hold... this is all part of a plan". He didn't know it was going to work. He wasn't guaranteeing a turnaround. He just saw what the plan was, saw what the trades meant, understood that the youth movement would take time, and put his hope in a few years down the road.
Had it not worked? I'm sure Cubs Robert would have been crushed. Especially if he would have predicted a "now it all comes together" season in 2015 but then watched it all fall apart. When the payoff never comes, man, it can just destroy you.
And yes, I understand that the Illini football payoff may still come. The ironic thing here is that I put "October 12, 2019" in my bio three and a half years ago, and now we're eight days away, and here I am, destroyed. We're eight days from my "moment we show the world we're back", and I'm writing like we've already had a 4-8 season with no bowl. But I'm telling you, that EMU game crushed me. I wasn't putting on during that From The Stands (from the pressbox). I was absolutely destroyed. You're patient, and you wait and you wait and you wait and you scream "hold.... hold...." and then you lose at home to Eastern Michigan.
So for this game prediction - don't pay attention to it. Yes, I'm 3-1 against the spread this year, but if you're thinking about betting this, don't. I do not, in any way, have a clear head at the moment. I'm not evaluating this game for what it is. I'm speaking from my emotion, and my emotion at this moment is "destroyed".
I'm simply dreading tomorrow like no game in a long time. It hurts so, so much that Lovie Smith is going to fail and PJ Fleck is going to succeed. The world is so ridiculously unfair. People have theorized a lot of things about Lovie - the job was a placeholder until another NFL opportunity came along, he's mailing it in because this was one big check to cash and then retire, etc - but from my interactions with him any my up-close observations of the program, that's not the case. I honestly believe he decided to do it because he wanted to influence 18-22 year-old men as the final chapter of his career. He wanted to finish his career in the business of turning boys into men (while turning around a football program in the state where he had so much success).
And yes, to a fault. You can't convince me that the Gill Byrd hire wasn't more "he'll help develop young men" than it was "he'll put together an incredible plan for defending the pass". Lovie thought the defense would come together like it did in St. Louis and Chicago, and it hasn't, and he could really use some help, and he doesn't have it.
But he's the kind of coach I want to see succeed. And PJ Fleck is the kind of coach I want to see fail. I just cannot handle the megachurch-pastor-as-football-coach routine. He's Joel Osteen in a quarter-zip, and it drives me insane.
He's also about to move to 5-0 in what is likely a 9-3 season. Yes, he took over a program coming off five consecutive bowls and Lovie took over Not Ideal, but still, both coaches had ridiculously young teams last year - one has won seven of their last eight and one just lost to Eastern Michigan. I hate everything about that.
Tomorrow's game? You want me to talk about tomorrow's game? You don't want me talking about tomorrow's game.
What has Minnesota done well? They've taken an accurate quarterback and a few NFL receivers and built a very solid passing game (Tanner Morgan against Purdue: 21 of 22 for 396 yards). Our biggest weakness - pass defense (102nd nationally in passing yards allowed). This only ends with Morgan throwing for 450 yards, right?
(Note: Illini pass defense coordinator - Gill Byrd.)
If Adrian Martinez throws for 327 against you and then throws for 47 the next week against Ohio State (and if Mike Glass of EMU throws for less yards against Central Connecticut State the week after throwing for 316 against you), then you probably have a pass defense problem. And now you go on the road to play the best receivers you'll face this season. (I don't think I've mentioned it, but that "Eastern Michigan 34, Central Connecticut State 29" score just about finished me off.)
I'm not angry. I don't do angry. I'm just really, really sad. I want to believe that we can compete tomorrow, and I want to think that my 2014 comp from the other day is on the mark (coming off a bye week, we surprise everyone, including ourselves, with a win over Minnesota), but I just can't see it. Ever since I wrote that, I've slipped so far back down the hill. Just not in a good headspace right now, and I don't see it improving any time soon.
So tomorrow feels like a drubbing. I can't see anything else. Yes, I know that Minnesota has been in four one-score games and could easily be 0-4, not 4-0. But I feel like they're out for revenge after last year's loss, and we're on the road (remember UConn?), and all I can think about is Minnesota drubbings in the past (like 2000, when we were ranked, yet lost 44-10). If this team can't beat Eastern Michigan at home, it's not prepared to be anyone on the road.
Feels like this one gets out of hand quickly. Feels like we'll turn the ball over. Feels like we'll be helpless against their passing game (come on, rain). Feels like my mood isn't going to be getting better any time soon.
Minnesota 41, Illinois 17