Two Steps Forward.......Three Steps Back.

Two Steps Forward.......Three Steps Back.
The rebuild of the Illinois football program continues as they drop a tough 34-31 loss in overtime to Purdue.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Getting to know........Nebraska

As summer nears its peak here in the midwest, the thoughts shift toward the upcoming fall season, which can only mean one thing.....FOOTBALL! This season, a new member joins the ranks of the Big Ten Conference, and that team is the Nebraska Cornhuskers from way out in Lincoln, Nebraska. I thought it would be fitting to take a little time during the "dog days" of summer to get better acquainted with our new friends to the west.

Lincoln is the state capital of Nebraska, and is the second largest city in that state. It has a population of just over a quarter million people, so just visualize an area about 1 1/2 times the size of Champaign-Urbana, and you will pretty much have it pegged. The approximate distance betwee
n Lincoln and Champaign-Urbana is 448 miles, which now makes it the second longest roadtrip in the Big Ten. That previous honor went to Minneapolis, but Lincoln is about 26 miles further. Still, Penn State is the longest drive, and now the borders of the conference stretch from Lincoln to State College, Pennsylvania, which is a whopping 984 miles. However, I don't think that anyone took distance to other schools into consideration when deciding on Nebraska to join the conference. They seemed to be the perfect fit, although not many people thought of them when all the talk about who the 12th member of the conference was going to be. The Cornhuskers are probably most known for their football team, which has had resounding success over the past few decades. They play in a venue named Memorial Stadium, which, coincidentally, will be the third stadium named that in the conference. Besides our historic landmark here on
campus, Bloomington, Indiana also calls their football venue that. In addition to football being a powerhouse, Nebraska also has been very successful in women's volleyball over the past few years, and while that might make other teams in the conference shudder, it actually will be a good thing, as it will enhance competition between the other schools and make the overall conference champion that much more worthy of the distinctive honor.

One of the major factors in bringing a twelfth member into the Big Ten was the establishment of a championship game in football. With an even number of teams now, the Leaders Division will battle the Legends Division in the first ever Big Ten Championship game to be held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, December 3. The Leaders consist of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin, while the Legends will comprise Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, No
rthwestern, Minnesota and Nebraska.

Speaking of college football, we are just two weeks away from the official kickoff of the season with the annual Big Ten meetings in Chicago. For the Illini, it is a sense of renewed optimism, especially coming off a Texas Bowl victory against Baylor. But, there are so many questions that don't have answers right now, especially since 3 of the top players left after their junior seasons to pursue their dream of playing in the NFL. That dream seemed to be put in jeopardy, up until the last few days, where it was rumored that there could be a possible settlement to the lockout. However, Mikel Leshoure, Martez Wilson and Corey Liuget are gone, and the players coming behind them have some huge shoes to fill. Once Camp Rantoul gets going in early August, I will once again have a full preview of the season on each side of the ball.
This summer seemed to have much more action with Illini sports than normal, with the baseball team advancing into the NCAA Tournament and the arrival of seven newcomers on campus for Bruce Weber's basketball team. One of the Illini's returning players, Meyers Leonard (left), just got back to campus from playing on the FIBA U19 men's national team in Latvia. Leonard met with the media on Wednesday afternoon at the Ubben practice facility on campus and thoroughly enjoyed his experience playing with some of the top talent in the nation. He will now be one of the veterans on a team of youngsters, and will help lead them much like Mike Tisdale did for him last season. Leonard, who seemed uptight as a freshman, was much more relaxed yesterday, and hopes his sophomore season goes much better than his freshman season did. Meyers averaged just under 7 points per game for the US team in their 9 game stint in Europe. Leonard will not have much time to relax, as the Illini are preparing to go to Italy next month for a trip with the entire team. He likes the idea of traveling with his teammates this time around, and has become quite the world traveler within the past month.

The next time this page is updated will be at the Big Ten Football meetings in Chicago. Enjoy the rest of what is left of the summer months!!!