Alright – I’m officially excited.  When I wrote my college football preview a few weeks ago and predicted a Motor City Bowl appearance for the Illini (which plenty of people at the time thought was a monster stretch), I didn’t think in my wildest dreams that they would do so well that the most important football game between teams from Illinois and Wisconsin this past weekend would end up taking place at Memorial Stadium in Champaign as opposed to Lambeau Field in Green Bay (the Bears are slowly redeeming themselves, but that’s a post for another day).  Now, I’m clearing out my holiday calendar with the real prospect of Illinois making a top tier bowl.  While we are a long long way from legitimately talking about a Rose Bowl with games against Michigan and Ohio State still coming up, let’s just say I’ll break the bank to make it to Pasadena if that ever happens.  Honestly, next to an Illini national championship in basketball, watching the Illini in the Rose Bowl is my top sports wish – as much as I love the Bears, White Sox, and Bulls, seeing Illinois finally finish at the top would mean the most to me personally.

What I love about how the Illini are playing right now is that these are anything but fluke wins.  I got to witness the victory against Penn State a couple of weeks ago in person, which meant that I also got to attend the coming out party for my favorite athlete in the world today outside of Devin Hester:  Arrelious “Rejus” Benn.  I’m not sure how Ron Zook is getting top recruits such as Benn and Vontae Davis to come from Washington, D.C. to Champaign, but it needs to continue.  Rejus is the type of guy we would always see across the line in a Wolverine or Buckeye uniform before – a huge wide receiver who will also burn the best cornerbacks (and also in the case against the Nitanny Lions, the best special teams units) out there.  Anyway, considering that Benn is only a month into his college career, he has a pretty good chance of becoming the best athlete that I have seen in an Illini uniform for either football or basketball (even more so than Deron Williams) if he keeps up this pace.  The only thing with having such a talent is that he may have a short stay in Champaign he could very well be a top ten NFL draft pick after playing the minimum of two years in college.

As starry-eyed as I am with Rejus, it’s Rashard Mendenhall and the Illinois running game that’s really the team’s catalyst in rolling over teams.  Sure, Wisconsin might have been the second most overrated number 5 team in country this season (after our good friends at the University of Michigan), but can you believe that we put up another 289 yards on the ground against them?  I was brought up on old-school smash mouth Chicago Bears and Big Ten football, so there’s nothing more beautiful to me than watching the Illini just ram the ball down people’s throats.  Quarterback Juice Williams might still be throwing the ball as if he spent the summer at the Rex Grossman Passing Clinic, but the boy (along with his backup Eddie McGee) can still run like he stole something.

So, it’s going to be the middle of October and Illini football is still relevant.  There’s the proverbial trap game next week atIowa – as bad as the Hawkeyes might be playing this year, Kirk Ferentz seems to have our number – and if we survive and advance there, it makes the prime time game against Michigan into the biggest game in Champaign since, well, the most horrific sporting event that I have ever attended in person.  When we’re six weeks into the season and we’ve already won more games in 2007 than the past two years combined, Illini fans are entitled to some irrational exuberance.  I know I’m there.

  1. Marc says:

    “Quarterback Juice Williams might still be throwing the ball as if he spent the summer at the Rex Grossman Passing Clinic, but the boy (along with his backup Eddie McGee) can still run like he stole something.”

    That’s gotta be one of the funniest (and unfortunately accurate) things that I’ve read in awhile. You should take that show on the road–perhaps the scUM game. Wait. You’ve got a wedding to go to, don’t you. Suckah.


  2. John Renneke says:

    Great stuff. I don’t think it’s too early to start dreaming of Pasadena or another BCS Bowl and Mendenhall deserves to be in the Heisman race.

    It’s going to be interesting to see how the QB situation plays out. Juice is talented but very inconsistent with his throws. I feel like they might have a better chance to win with McGee. Other than the late INT against Mizzou, he looked great throwing the ball that game. He also appears to have an extra gear with his legs. At the very least, they need to continue to use both of them.

    Go Illini!


  3. mIke jones says:

    How long until Zooker has the Illini on probation? You said it yourself, it makes no sense that those guys would choose to come to Champaign.


  4. Sean says:

    Is Rejus a true freshmen or a redshirt?? I’m not an Illini fan so I don’t know but if he’s a true freshman, he can’t go to the NFL until after his junior year. You have to be 3 years out of high school to go pro in football.

    I watched the Penn State game and my jaw dropped.


  5. Bill Lumbergh says:

    “I’m not sure how Ron Zook is getting top recruits such as Benn and Vontae Davis to come from Washington, D.C. to Champaign, but it needs to continue.”

    I have an idea – cash money. Straight up cash money. mIke, you speak the truth.

    Also, Michigan hasn’t lost since the Oregon game, and Oregon is pretty good. I’d say Michigan is pretty darn good, and I can’t wait for them to put the I-Block in its lowly place.


  6. M to the Vizzle says:

    ive never been to champaign, but i guess it must rank up there with the trentons and buffalos of the world. . .that being said, zooker was able to pull in big time recruits at florida too. which, considering their recent recruiting successes may seem obvious. but even spurrier wouldnt land the super big names. he’d just develop whatever he got because he was too arrogant to play the recruiting game. zooks players were relatively high character athletes that eventually won the championship he was too stupid to coach em to. trust me, those guys werent rollin on dubs during my time in gville. in fact, zook himself got into more off field trouble than they did. go illini! the big ten needs a coach with muscles. and, uh, balls.


  7. […] The Way Kathy Lee Needed Regis That’s the Way I Need Rejus [image] Alright – I’m officially excited.  When I wrote […]


  8. […] having a beautiful double revenge of the FIBs over the Badgers and Packers last week, it was followed up with one of the worst football weekends […]


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