As I mentioned in the podcast, this has seemed like the longest off-season in history. We've had stuff to get us through the off-season; a great Cardinals team, Mizzou basketball going to the Elite Eight, a late bowl game, True Son moving to KC, and True Son's company folding (still: damn). It's just seemed like these nine months have been longer than that dry streak you hit after dumping that girl you used to be "friends" with. Oh, and if you got friendly after the Alamo Bowl win, congrats on that kid. Let's look at some real football instead of NCAA '10.

  • Mizzou has dominated the Illini at the Dome over the past few years. A Mizzou player has always had their 'coming out' party at the EJD against the Illini; Brad, Maclin, 'Spoon, Chase, and now who? Jaron Baston can smell it.

    I'm saying it's Blaine Gabbert, Andrew Jones, or my ultimate pick to click, Wes Kemp. Kemp has done nothing but impress this off-season.

  • I know I've ripped his ass a few times, but really, I do like Ron Zook. He may be a barefoot water skiing idiot, but the guy sells his team to the recruits and knows what to say. I think the X's and O's have just skipped out on Ron at times, but he does know what's up.

    As far as Zook is concerned, the Tigers are reloading, not rebuilding.

    “It’s been a tradition for Missouri quarterbacks to have their way with Illinois,” he said. “(Gabbert’s) a big, strong, physical guy who runs better than you’d think. Our guys have to be able to get him on the ground. This guy may take off at any moment. Big, mobile quarterbacks are the guys that concern me.”

  • The Illini defense is in worse shape than when Tina Turner wouldn't fold Ike's laundry. They are missing CB Miami Thomas, who is out for the year. Instead, a familiar name to some in the recruiting circles is in: Terry Hawthorne. Oh, but Hawthorne was recruited to play WR and just switched over to the secondary last week.

    Having Hawthorne in the secondary is the equivalent of some Tiger fans thinking TJ Moe should be in at QB this week. It's idiotic.

    Illinois also graduated their Willy-Mo safety when Vontae Davis hit the draft. Thank God.

  • More injury news for the Illini: starting running back Daniel Dufrene sprained his ankle and was out for the past week. A tender ankle on artificial turf with a speedy D doesn't bode well.

  • How does Mizzou defend the Juice-to-Benn attack? Let's admit this: Benn is a beast. He is what dark was to my college girlfriend: they make people look better than what they are. Juice isn't a great QB. Hell, he isn't even good. He is as inconsistent as Derrick Rose's SAT.

    Mizzou's corners will be in for a great test with the Illini receivers, but Juice has to get them the ball, and Mizzou's defense is a lot faster this year than they have been in the past, when they were considered some of the fastest! If anyone saw Brian Coulter and Jacquies Smith at DEnds last year, they know that that rotation was more productive than Sulak-Chavis. Coulter and Smith were all over the ball. They flustered Todd Reesing in what was probably the duo's best game. Throw in Jaron Baston, who is also a ball-hawk at DT. Terrell Resonno at 6-7, 300lbs demands double teams. Randall Hunt (6-6, 320lbs) and John Asamoah (6-5, 315lbs) are going to have a workout with Resonno. But with a line of Smith (Jacquies or Aldon)-Resonno-Baston-Coulter, who gets the double team? Who is left open? Arguably, all need to be double teamed to contain them. This is what speed on the DLine does.

  • The speed on the DLine does three things: 1). makes the Illini bring in a TE from the slot position, which kills one aspect of the spread offense. 2).It hurts an already iffy Daniel Dufrene's running attack. If the guy is already limping like Shamus from Family Guy, how is he going to run against a fast DLine, only to get eaten up by 3). Open Linebackers, Mizzou's defensive strong suit. Luke Lambert and Andrew Gachkar will have huge games. Oh, throw in some guy named Sean Weatherspoon. The Illini OL will have a tough time containing the Mizzou DL, so it's obvious, the Mizzou linebackers will be all over the place. I'd expect huge amounts of blitzing from Dave Steckel's D. Steckel's bio picture looks like a mugshot, so expect a prison beating of epic proportions. You don't want to dick around with this guy.

    So to answer a question a bit up in the post, Juice won't have much time to even get the ball to Rejus Benn, and if the Illini are going to win, they have to get the ball to their wideouts, which is going to be a huge task for an inconsistent Juice Williams. Blitz packages with protection already being maxed out, things don't look great for Juice already.

  • Contrary to what others are saying without actually knowing what they are talking about, Blaine Gabbert is ready for prime time. This is why Pinkel didn't redshirt him last year. The kid has prepped for huge games; Illannoy last year, Oklahoma in the B12 Championship Game, Alamo Bowl, Texas, Okie State, the destruction of the Huskers in Lincoln. He was there. He has a deep receiving corp, led by Jared Perry and DaNario Alexander. Throw in two of his fellow soph's in Andrew Jones, who looked great in place of Chase Coffman, and the player that is ready to breakout, Wes Kemp.

  • Having a 2nd team B12 back to your left or right isn't bad either for Blaine. Derrick Washington went Cali wildfire on that Illini ass last year and scorched them to the tune of 137yds and two screamin' Mike Kelly TD calls.

  • The Illini D was probably better last year than what it is this year. Martez Wilson is a beast, and they do have several players with experience. Sirod Williams has a kickass name, and is strong at DT. The thing is, though, Mizzou has a strong OLine. This time last year, everyone was freaking out over the Mizzou OLine. How would they do? Well, look at DWash's numbers again, and the fact that Chase threw for 300+yds and three TDs...and was dropped for one sack. The line is pretty much intact from last year. The guys we have in now played significant time in '08, and even nabbed some starts.

    The Illini are favored around 6.5pts in most circles, but I've heard it dropping to as low as 4.5. Personally, I say it's close until Mizzou pulls away late in the fourth. I'm taking Mizzou to win outright 38-28, but wouldn't be surprised if it was ugly. Seriously, this game is a coinflip of 'Which teams will we see?'. I'll agree with Will Leitch in the fact that both teams have so many questions. The problem with the Illini is a few of their questions have to do with injuries and depth. When you go into your first game beat up against a team that is 100% healthy, it's never good. The fake surface of the EJD along with Mizzou's speed on D will eliminate the Illini rushing game and puts pressure on a QB that is sketchier than an ice cream man that can't go within 200 feet of a school or Little League game.

  • I'll also agree with Will that the Illini or Mizzou could go 11-1 or go 5-7. This is going to be a crazy season.

    PS- Eddie McGee still scares the hell out of me.