After winning three non-conference games with relative ease, IU opened the Big Ten season with a home loss on a sweltering day to eventual Big Ten runner-up and Rose Bowl participant Illinois. Most expected the Illini, based on some improbably impressive recruiting by Ron Zook, to improve in 2007, but by any standard the Illini were ahead of schedule. Here's the box score, and here is my wrapup. Also if you scroll down the Illinois category past the basketball stuff, you will see my quarter-by-quarter liveblogs, including prescient gems such as:
Too bad this isn't Oklahoma circa 1980. Williams cannot pass. They may beat us today, but Illinois isn't going to beat anyone at the top of the conference with this QB.Ahem. As I noted in the recap, Juice Williams was mostly horrible when he tried to throw the ball, although he did have a couple of nice throws on the key drive of the game: after IU pulled to within 13-7 with a couple of minutes remaining in the first have, Illinois drove down the field and was up 20-7 at halftime. In general, the thankfully departed Rashard Mendenhall brutalized the IU defense. Mendenhall gained 214 yards on 27 carries and scored a touchdown. IU's box scores list gross postive yards and net yards, but those numbers were the same in Mendenhall's line: in other words, he carried the ball 27 times and wasn't stopped behind the line of scrimmage even once.
Overall, it was a deflating game. At the time, no one knew how good Illinois would be. The previous season, IU had ended a 17-year, 10-game losing streak in Champaign, and before the season, most IU fans figured a win in this game would be crucial to IU's bowl hopes (not too many foresaw the win at Iowa to come) and might lead to a modest three game winning streak in what the Big Ten office regards as a rivalry worthy of protection. It wasn't to be, and now IU heads to Champaign in 2008 for a BTN prime time game.