This is a couple days late, I apologize. The job that actually pays has been busy. As such we're not going to finish our preseason basketball countdown until after the season starts and I'm going to have to start making some decisions on whether to focus time on basketball or football. That is completely up to Kevin Wilson and company. /Glares accusingly southeastward towards Bloomington. Get yo crap together Coach.
With that short disclaimer out of the way, how has Indiana fared against the Illinois Fighting Illini (good lord that's a lot of Ls and Is)? The answer to that question is strangely not well considering that the average score is so very close. However, like Minnesota, the Hoosiers failing in the series comes from the fact that they were never good. Many of the teams here in the Midwest when football was still new were quite good.
Illinois leads the series by a record of 45-22-2. 20 of those wins came before the end of the 1960s. Again the Hoosiers claim a major deficit to a regional team in the first half of last century. Indiana started this series off by dropping 20 of the first 32 games while also tying Illinois in two of them. More recently the series has been slightly closer.
In the last 30 years Indiana and Illinois have played relatively closely. Indiana has walked away with 7 wins and Illinois has shambled off with 12. The scores have been a series of traded blowouts followed up by some very close victories. Over the last 10 games the teams have split the series at 5-5. Illinois had blowout victories in '11, '10, '08. Indiana was the owner of a blowout in the last 10 games only once, in 2005.
I'm personally struggling to actually recall specific details of any game against Illinois in the last decade. They always just seem so uneventful. Last year's game ended a 5 game losing streak for Indiana but it was at a time in the season where Illinois' season was lost as well, so it wasn't really one I committed some brain power towards. Despite it not being a big game for my memory it was a coming out moment for Nate Sudfeld.
After suffering some stalled drives in the first quarter, Kevin Wilson opted to pull Cam Coffman for Nate to see what kind of spark he could bring. Nate was in turn able to manufacture two consecutive scoring drives. One ended on a 10 yard pass to Stephen Houston and another finished on a 7 yard run for Houston. That final run in the first half being his third touchdown of the day already. At that point the Hoosiers went up by a touchdown and never looked back. A field goal by Illinois brought it within 7 points again in the second half, but another touchdown midway through the fourth quarter sealed the win for Indiana.
Nate ended up throwing the ball 15 times and completing 10 for 107 yards and 2 touchdowns that game. Surprisingly, Stephen Houston despite a big day with three touchdowns was more of an opportunist than a volume guy that day, only recording 71 yards from the line of scrimmage. Overall, Illinois actually outgained Indiana in yardage by nearly double. They just couldn't seem to find the end zone. I wouldn't expect that same act to be repeated again this year.
So, the history of Illinois and Indiana is pretty unremarkable, but I think these are two programs that are roughly going to be on a same competitive tier from here on out. I think both are eyeing the same ceiling for what they would consider successful programs and both think they can get there soon. Only time will tell if that pans out, but with the division changes coming soon, we'll have to rely on where Illinois is in comparison to Indiana by numbers. Because direct competition will soon be few and far between.