It seems a little strange to be talking about the college football bowl season already, but tis' the season. Even more peculiar is that the talk involves the Fighting Illini this year. Not that anyone around Illini Nation is totally shocked about this revelation, seeing that Ron Zook has essentially turned around the Illinois program in three years' time. Given the fact that Zook's first two seasons were ones to forget, this season has given everyone associated with the program a breath of fresh air. Now, the destination of the Illini is yet to be determined, but we know that it will be either the Capital One Bowl or the Rose Bowl. Yes, I said the Rose Bowl! Due to the fact that some of the top teams have been getting knocked off, this has propelled the Illini into BCS talk, and with the Rose Bowl being one of the BCS bowls, the Illini have entered the picture. Especially if Ohio State somehow gets into the national championship picture, the Illini right now are the #2 Big Ten team, and they would be destined for Pasadena. But, since the Rose is a BCS bowl, they do not have to take a Big Ten team if they don't want to. Orlando would love to host the Illini, and if the analysts are correct, then Zook may be facing his old team, the Florida Gators. The selections are announced on Sunday, so the picture will be much clearer then. Stay tuned.
Congratulations to J Leman, who was named an All-American on Thursday by the American Football Coaches' Association (AFCA). Leman was one of three linebackers chosen for the honor, and the first Illini since Simeon Rice in 1994. This should give the Illini its distinction back as Linebacker U, and cement Leman's name with the likes of Howard, Butkus and Rice.
After a grueling nine day road trip to the Hawaiian Islands and Maryland, the Fighting Illini basketball team is back at home, ready to get back on the winning track. Not that the trip to Hawaii was a bad one, quite the opposite. They went 3-1 on the islands, the only blemish to Duke, who is head and shoulders better than the Illini. After a quick trip home to re-pack, the Illini were back off to the east coast to play Maryland in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at the Comcast Center in College Park, Maryland. The ACC had the upper hand in most of the contests, including this one, as the Terrapins defeated the Illini 69-61. Calvin Brock, who continues to impress everyone, led the Illini in scoring with 13 points, while Rodney Alexander and Shaun Pruitt each scored 10. Some home cooking in front of the Orange and Blue faithful is hopefully just what the doctor ordered, as they welcome the Weber State Wildcats on Saturday afternoon (4:05 pm, central time - Big Ten Network). The Illini are 4-2 on the season, while Weber State comes in at 2-3.
Jolette Law has the Fighting Illini women playing well in her short tenure as head coach, and excitement is once again alive with the women's program. Law has the Illini out to an early 5-2 record, with a tournament championship in the Florida International Thanksgiving Classic. Jenna Smith and Danyel Crutcher both had good showings, with Smith garnering Most Valuable Player honors for the tourney. The Illini were upended by North Carolina State 61-47 on Thursday night in Raleigh, North Carolina in the inaugural Big Ten/ACC Women's Challenge, but a 5-2 record is nothing to be ashamed about at this point. The Illini will return home on Sunday to face Illinois-Chicago, then will host