SOC - Virginia
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Everyone should be very proud of me.
I got up this morning at 5:00. Headed to Chicago and then hopped a flight to DC. Met up with Carmen and two other guys, played 18 holes, and then drove to Charlottesville. Checked into the hotel at 9:30 pm, got ready to go out to get something to eat... and pulled the plug. Very long day tomorrow, this article to write tonight, 48 years old... there's just times when you have to say "you guys go ahead - I just don't have anything in the tank tonight and I need to be fully awake and alert tomorrow".
So here I sit, writing at 10-something pm (only 9-something at home), ready to get the sleep I really need before another long day tomorrow. Only took me 48 years to learn that sometimes I need to listen to my body. I've run through hundreds of body red lights in my life, but for some reason, I saw body red light #356 and hit the brakes.
OK, so this game tomorrow. If you've read these SOC's for years you know what I'm going to say. The first road game of the season. We were playing a horrific UConn team in 2019 and all I could talk about was the first road game of the season and how much it scared me. Let me see if I can do the last decade from memory:
- 2020 is easy - destroyed by Wisconsin
- 2019 was the UConn game I mentioned above. We needed an interception from Dele Harding on UConn's final drive to seal it away.
- 2018 I remember because it's the one outlier. We started with four home games and so our first road game was a win at Rutgers.
- 2017 we went down to South Florida and got destroyed.
- 2016 we went to Nebraska and lost (although the game wasn't awful - I think that was the Reggie Corbin breakout game).
- 2015 I wasn't too far from here watching us get destroyed by North Carolina
- 2014 was the trip to Washington where I blinked and we were down 35-5.
- 2013 is harder. I think we had all home games in the non-conference (we beat Cincy and played Washington in Chicago). So the first road game had to be a Big Ten game. At Indiana maybe? Gotta look this one up. Hmmm... at Nebraska as well. 39-19 loss.
- 2012 is easy. The complete debacle at Arizona State.
- 2011 was the year we started 5-0 with five consecutive home games and then traveled to Indiana and became bowl eligible. So that was the other year where we won our first road game.
- 2010 takes us back to the Missouri series in St. Louis (we lost).
So that's two wins in our first road game of the year. At Indiana in 2011 and at Rutgers in 2018. That Indiana team finished 1-11 and Rutgers couldn't have been much better. Looking it up, Rutgers was... 1-11. So there's your real statistic.
In the last 11 years, Illinois has only won their first road game twice. And both times, the opponent finished the season 1-11. So until we win our first road game against a decent opponent, I'll continue to expect us to lose the first time we leave Champaign.
And there it was. I wrote the paragraph above and then nodded off. Had to have been out a good 45 seconds before I realized that my eyes were closed. I need to find some way to wrap this up. I probably have five more minutes and then I'm asleep for good. I'm very glad this is happening with an SOC post because I don't edit SOC posts - I get to the end and hit "publish". If I had to edit this, I'd almost certainly fall asleep.
Let's get to predicting. It's a road game. Our first road game. Virginia is decent. We just lost to UTSA. I just can't see any way we pull out a win. I feel like some turnovers are coming, and I feel like we're the ones turning the ball over, not Virginia. I'd love to see some crazy bounces go our way, but I just don't see that happening in the first road game.
Time is up. Gotta fall asleep. Need to make my pick. I think I'll go with...
Virginia 35, Illinois 23