I suppose now it's official. After knocking off Wisconsin and upping their record to 5-1, the Illini are one of the "surprise" teams of this college football season.
While hindsight is 20/20, what the Illini have done so far shouldn't come as a big surprise*. After all, Zook has brought in back-to-back elite recruiting classes, and last year we saw this team make strides in terms of competitiveness. Furthermore, we knew going into this season that the Big Ten would be down. Heck, after the bowl games last year one has to wonder if the Big Ten had ever really been "up."
Prior to the season, the biggest question mark in my mind with the Illini was their relative lack of experience. However, this team has rebounded quite nicely from a tough loss to Mizzou in the opener, and they're getting more experienced each week.
Next week the Illini are at Iowa, and honestly, that's a game we should win. The week after is when things get really interesting as Michigan comes to town. We'll see how that goes. It's been a long time since the Illini have beaten Michigan in Champaign. As far as I'm concerned, it's been too long... I'm guessing that Ron Zook will tell the guys the same thing...
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Zook was right to call next week a "big game." Anytime you go on the road in the Big Ten, you've got to take things seriously or else risk an embarrassment. In order to prepare better for Iowa, perhaps one day during practice this week Zook should wear a pink tutu?
Seriously, come Saturday that shock tactic could make the difference for the Illini at Kinnick Stadium...
* For what it's worth, I might as well take this opportunity to point out that I was the only person in the pre-season who picked the Illini to win 8+ games in Chairman Gau's poll. Oskee Wow Wow!