SOC - Maryland 2021

Sep 17, 2021

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This game just feels WEIRD. Everything about it is weird. It's the first time Maryland has ever visited Champaign (they joined the Big Ten in 2014). It's only the second matchup between the two schools ever (2018 was the other). Their head coach is Mike Locksley and their special teams coach is Ron Zook. The game is on a Friday night at 8:00. Weird weird weird.

Maybe this is the best way to say it. The game is on September 17th. It's on a Friday night. We're playing Maryland. Not one ounce of this feels like a Big Ten game. It's the least Big Ten-y game ever played in Memorial Stadium.

It's also the game after our Non Conference Road Game Blowout. I made the list of those games on Saturday. Here's the list:

2012: Arizona State 45, Illinois 14
2014: Washington 44, Illinois 19
2015: North Carolina 48, Illinois 14
2017: South Florida 47, Illinois 23
2021: Virginia 42, Illinois 14

So maybe we should start by looking at how we performed in the very next game:

2012: Illinois 44, Charleston Southern 0
2014: Illinois 42, Texas State 35
2015: Illinois 27, Middle Tennessee State 25
2017: Nebraska 28, Illinois 6

OK so that doesn't tell us much. Charleston Southern was a winless FCS program so that taught us nothing. Texas State we were down big but fought back to win. Middle Tennessee State missed a field goal as time expired that would have given them the win.

And the only thing I remember about that Nebraska game was that Nebraska was dominating yet we cut it to something like 14-6 and then forced a fumble at the Nebraska 30 so we're in field goal range already with a chance to make it 14-9 or even 14-13. And then I want to say it was something like sack, unsportsmanlike penalty, sack, and suddenly we were punting from our own territory. That's So Illinois.

So maybe there's not much to learn from "how we rebound once we return home after getting blown out on the road. But I will say that I do remember a lot of weird stuff in September night games. Remember that Penn State game in 2018? That was a Friday night. Penn State was favored by 15,000 points but then after a Trenard Davis end-around TD pass in the third quarter, Illinois is leading top-10 Penn State. And then Penn State had like a 35-0 fourth quarter and won going away. I mean, if the subject is That's So Illinois, going into the fourth quarter trailing (gonna have to look this up) 28-24 and then losing 63-24 is SO ILLINOIS.

Illini Football. Home of That One Time Mark Hoekstra Threw Five Interceptions IN ONE QUARTER At Arizona.

I need to stop doing that because I actually don't feel awful about this game. But hey, this is a Stream Of Consciousness post, and the rule is to just set my mind loose and record whatever it says. And it's currently stuck on That's So Illinois moments.

I'll focus. Illinois vs. Maryland in Champaign. My mind just reminded me of something I wrote on Slack this week so I'll go cut-and-paste that over here. Someone was asking why the line was so close - they were quite tempted to bet the house on Maryland -7.5 - and this was my response:

Maryland has played twice at home. Now they go on the road on a Friday night. We just played a 10:00 am body clock game - now Maryland gets to play a 9:00 pm body clock game. There's all kinds of things that would scare bettors away from Maryland here.

Remember 2013? Cincinnati beats Purdue 42-7 in the opener. We struggled to beat FCS Southern Illinois (SIU was driving, down 8, and we had to bat down a pass in the endzone to finally secure the win). Cincy would go 9-3 that season and end up ranked. Illinois would go 4-8. Cincy comes to Illinois for their first road game of the year and...

Illinois 45, Cincinnati 17

So I'm always "don't fear an unproven team until they win on the road". I mean, I've never said those words before, but after games like 2013 Cincinnati (or even #10 Penn State leaving Pennsylvania for the first time back in 2018), sometimes other teams go on the road and do what we just did at Virginia. Yes, Maryland looked really good beating West Virginia and Howard at home. But how will they perform at 8:00 CDT (9:00 EDT) on a Friday night?

I do think this is a pretty good Maryland team. Certainly more talented than Illinois. DJ Durkin had recruited well before he was fired, and Mike Locksley has recruited well. Taulia Tagovailoa is a solid QB and they have two really good wide receivers. After what we saw last week, it's easy to see 400+ passing yards again.

But the line is only 7.5 because this is Illinois returning to the comforts of home and Maryland going on the road for the first time. I'm not saying that will mean something like the 2013 Cincinnati score, but that's a thing that happens in college football. A team that should easily beat another team doesn't easily beat the other team simply because it's on the road and late at night. A couple weird turnovers happen, an otherwise solid offensive line starts false-starting on third-and-one making it third-and-six, and the whole thing snowballs from there.

Do I think that might mean an Illini win? I do not. But I think it might mean an Illini cover. The starting QB returns, Bret Bielema said they're going to tighten up the rotations a bit because they now know who they want to utilize the rest of the season, and I can see a rebound performance from Illinois while Maryland gives a "why do bad things keep happening?" performance.

I think that means we keep the game close. But I don't think that means we win.

Maryland 27, Illinois 24


HailToTheOrange on September 17, 2021 @ 12:52 AM

I truly hope it's that competitive as I flew in from the Bay Area for my first IL home game since...San Jose St. (ouch). But I doubt it. Still grateful to be back though. ILL

Bear8287 on September 17, 2021 @ 02:16 PM


Just how many IB readers live in the Bay Area anyway? (I know Joe Edge used to, but he moved North up the coast and is now in the great PNW.)

CAIllini on September 17, 2021 @ 03:52 PM

Rises hand…

thegoah on September 17, 2021 @ 06:24 AM

I don’t think we cover in a loss. I think we will win or we will lose big. I say this mostly because it covers the widest range of outcomes and will make me look like a genius if one of the myriad scenarios plays out.

Bear8287 on September 17, 2021 @ 02:18 PM

they also both seem So Illinois

HiggsBoson on September 17, 2021 @ 06:18 PM

I'm going with lose big.

thegoah on September 17, 2021 @ 06:25 AM

Also if the Zooker is their special teams coach, won’t our average starting field position be something like the MD 47 yard line?

Bear8287 on September 17, 2021 @ 02:20 PM

enter image description here

DB50 on September 17, 2021 @ 07:48 AM

I want to drink the kool-aid, but the Illini defense, yikes! Seeing is believing!

IBFan on September 17, 2021 @ 08:25 AM

I just can’t see us being competitive with our back 5/6/7/8. Maryland in a route. Their skill positions on offense dominate. We only keep it close if turnovers are like 4-0. Boo

IlliniBobLoblaw on September 17, 2021 @ 09:36 AM

The jury is still out on whether or not the players will be able to implement the new schemes before the season falls apart - they haven't been especially successful yet. I'll continue to hope for the best.

Also, maybe I'm being unduly influenced by the fact that I've only been awake past 11pm a handful of times over the last five or six years (young kids), but Maryland playing on a Friday night on the road at body clock 9pm gives me reason to believe. I mean, the second half is going to be played almost entirely in post-11pm body clock time for them.

San Joaquin on September 17, 2021 @ 10:04 AM

I think the offense should be able to improve a bit but still have no faith in pass defense, particularly this week. Add 20 to what Robert thinks Maryland will post and I'm right there with him. Hope I am wrong.

The Olaf Rules on September 17, 2021 @ 10:32 AM

Beason moved to WR because the staff thought the DB rotation was solid? Oof.

Maryland 45, Illinois 24

IBFan on September 17, 2021 @ 05:31 PM

After Beason injury he could no longer aspire to be a D1 corner anymore I believe. Before injury I think reports coming out were that he was very impressive.

Brave Illini on September 17, 2021 @ 12:29 PM

I like this, and agree on your prediction. It is likely we will bounce back as the coaches and players get more time and experience together under their belt. Hope I am driving back to Peoria early Saturday morning, meaning that the Illini keep me at the game until the end.

Bear8287 on September 17, 2021 @ 02:08 PM

and their special teams coach is Ron Zook

enter image description here

ILLINI88ME on September 17, 2021 @ 05:21 PM

Glad I could ask a question that made SOC, perhaps my finest moment ??. To wrap the story, I chose not to bet the house, partly base on the answer you gave (college football is after all a bunch of kids still growing up). And partly because I just can’t bring myself to bet against the team I want to win.

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