We know, we know. We were WAY off on Illinois last year. Sue us for underestimating Ron Zook. Apparently coke and hookers are more important to college football success these days than actual coaching. We aren't making the same mistake this year:

2007 Preview: Here
2007 Record: 9-4 (6-2)
Projected 2008 Finish: 3rd
Returning Starters: 13
Head Coach: Ron Zook
Best Player: CB Vontae Davis

Good News:

- The D certainly has plenty of talent. Vernon's little bro - CB Vontae Davis - is a top-10 pick in the 2009 Draft, DE Will Davis is a beast and LB Martez Wilson is being compared to Simeon Rice (Woah there Ms. Lippy...).

- Excuse me, could you point "Marcus" Arrelious Benn in the direction of The Gun Show??? The Big Ten Freshman of the Year is the prototypical NFL wideout and led the team in receptions last year (54). Look for his TDs to explode this year after just two in 2007.

- Ron Zook has D.C.-area recruiting in a choke-hold. Zook's three most talented players: Vontae Davis, Will Davis and Arrelious Benn all hail from the Beltway. It's ridiculous. He's like the white Marion Barry. And make no mistake: Ron Zook will be caught smoking crack cocaine.

- Juice Williams looked like Charlie Ward in last year's Ohio State game, tossing 4 TDs and running wild. Now a 3-year starter, Illinois has a huge leg up on its first two Big Ten opponents - Penn State and Michigan.

- Daniel Dufrene sure looked like a capable back-up during his 80-yard run to the house vs. Ohio State - at least until he coughed the ball up on the goal line.

Not-So-Good News:

- First game against No. 6 Missouri? Good luck with that.

- After completely shutting down Ohio State in the Horseshoe, Illinois embarrassed the entire Big Ten in the Rose Bowl, getting trampled by USC for 344 rushing yards. We think the D is legit, but we'll find in a hurry with Missouri up first. In case you missed it, it was basically the 2002 Citrus Bowl...

- ... And starting defensive tackle Sirod Williams was just lost for the season with a busted knee. That can't help.

- Lost in all the Juice Williams hype toward the end of last season is the fact he still can't hit the broad side of a barn. The Illini pass offense was 109th in the country - one spot ahead of Notre Dame. Yorp. And Juice had just one more passing TD than INT (13-12). Of course last year he could just hand off to robo-back Rashard Mendenhall. That won't fly with the pint-sized Dufrene in the backfield.

- Ron Zook is extremely dim-witted. Don't let Brent Musburger tell you otherwise. Exhibit A: He called the school "Illi-noise" at his introductory press conference! True story. Exhibit B: In his four bowl games, Zook has been outscored 151-71. It really does make us sick to think he is the reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year. (Oh yeah, and he's a prick. Rasheezy knows what we're talking about.)

- J Leman - All-American middle linebacker, mullet aficionado, Superhero - is gone. He will be missed by all.


Man, we really took a turn to Negativetown there didn't we? We're still a little bitter about Zook spoiling last year's season preview. If you think he's a disaster in bowl games, wait until you see what he cooked up over the last 8 months. Missouri just has too many weapons for Illinois to pull another shocker out of its ass.

On the bright side, we do see the Illini beating Penn State and Michigan on the road and entering the Wisconsin game at 6-1. But playing in Madison is brutal and there's no way they creep up on Ohio State again. In the end, it should be good enough for another New Year's Day bowl game (Our guess: Capital One Bowl. Eat your heart out Michigan fans). Then the wild man gets to hit the recruiting trail again!

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