Illinois shows what it had all along

Illinois+shows+what+it+had+all+along

By Tatiania Perry, Staff Writer

Since beating Wisconsin, Illinois is a new team.

No, scratch that.

Since beating Wisconsin, Illinois is confident enough to be the team it had all the pieces to be.

All season long, I have been saying Illinois is on the brink of something amazing, and it has finally crossed that threshold.

For the first time in Lovie Smith’s head coach reign, Illinois beat Purdue and took back The Cannon. Illinois hasn’t won back-to-back Big Ten wins in the Lovie era until now.

The numbers have been here the whole time, and it was getting to the point where even in press conferences Smith couldn’t tell us what was going wrong and what needed to be fixed.

The defense was forcing turnovers and the offense was making touchdowns, but we just weren’t finishing out the game.

Something changed in those young men after the win against Wisconsin. Whether it be confidence, the idea that they can do it, or a lucky day, the victory did spark something amazing, and the team changed for the better.

Even more amazingly, big hitters were out of the game and Illinois still managed to hold off Purdue into the fourth quarter when the Boilermakers made their single touchdown of the game.

One of the many things Smith has been able to do best is capitalizing on the turnover battle.

Throughout this season, Illinois has won each turnover battle and recently began to figure out how to convert those to wins.

All the naysayers who wanted to fire Smith failed to realize all the things he was putting in place.

The orange and blue blood transfers (transfers from top schools) were truly the missing link and what separates last season to this season.

We’ve now reached the point that hasn’t been reached in the Lovie era: legitimate bowl eligibility.

Although no one wants to jinx it and say records are an obvious win against Rutgers, at this point, it should be a very obvious win, but maybe not an easy one. I don’t think any competition for Illinois is ever going to be easy, but the Illini are kind of on a roll.

On the same note, Rutgers isn’t doing very well and at this point, it’s safe to say it isn’t a football school and therefore, isn’t the scariest thing to face.

With Rutgers out of the way, somehow Illinois has to beat Michigan State, Iowa or Northwestern.

Michigan State is very hit or miss, Iowa should probably be just marked down as a hard maybe, but Northwestern has had defensive issues all year.

Picking up at least two more wins on the road to a bowl game is just what these guys deserve after struggling to pull out a winning season.

This streak should help fan turnout as well. Who doesn’t like to see some underdogs on top?

@tati_perry14

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