The Illini take their 17 game Big Ten losing streak with them this weekend when they meet up with Penn State in Happy Valley. Will the Illini finally snap the streak and leave Penn State, well, happy?
In order for that to happen it’s going to take a special effort from the entire team, but as we all know, some players and even coaches impact the final outcome more than others.
In this roundtable, the staff of Writing Illini puts forth their views as to who the most important Illini is heading into their match up with the Nittany Lions.
Ricky: It’s hard to pick an Illini this week for who is the most important because the offense has looked terrible, but the defense has given up 45.7 points per game since Big Ten play started. However, I am an offensively minded guy. That is why I am picking Josh Ferguson.
Ferguson has not seen much success in Illinois’ last two losses to Wisconsin and Michigan State. In those two games, he’s only racked up 51 rushing yards on 17 carries and 17 receiving yards on five catches. If Illinois wants to have a chance in this game against PSU, they need to get Ferguson back on track (especially in the receiving game). If he is not able to pick things up, it could be a fourth straight loss for the Fighting Illini.
Austin: Nate. Once again, week in and week out, it’s Scheelhaase. He has to run this offense the way he has all year long. The losses can not be hung on Nate. He is statistically a top 30 quarterback this year. The offense is working. However, Nate has to keep that going against a Penn State team we should be able to put some points up against.
Ryan: The most important Illini this week is Bill Cubit. In 4 of Penn State’s last 5 games, their defense has surrendered 34, 44, 40, and 63 points. Three of those games resulted in losses, and if Illinois wants to have any shot of pulling off the upset they are going to have to hang at least 45 points on the scoreboard because it has become very clear that the Illini defense is going to surrender points by the bushel. That said, Penn State’s 80th ranked scoring defense (29.3 ppg) seems nearly as ripe for exploitation as Illinois’ probably appears to the Nittany Lions.
Cubit has got to take the reigns off the offense and play for the shootout win. On paper, it makes sense to try and limit the damage PSU can inflict on the Illini D by playing ball control offense, but Illinois has been trying to employ this game plan since the Big Ten season started and it’s simply not working.
The time is now to get back to the unbridled offensive aggression that Illinois displayed in the seasons early stages, and it’s up to the offensive coordinator to turn his horses loose.
The Writing Illini staff includes lead editor Ricky Widmer, co-editor Ryan Kraemer, and staff writer, Austin Jabs.
Follow Ricky on Twitter @RickyWidmer.
Follow Austin on Twitter @AustinJabs85.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @RPKraemer.