illinois fighting illini

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Taylor Rooks appreciation post.

At 23, Taylor is making a name for herself as a talented journalist/host/correspondent on the rise.

And she’s our own Big Ten reppin’, STL and Chicago reppin’, Illinois alumna.

2017 Big Ten Coaching Power Rankings

The Big Ten had a fantastic 2016, though that is mostly due to the conference’s traditional powers all having great seasons. The middle and bottom of the league still poses an issue, and as a result there’s a big difference between the top and bottom coaches on this list. A number of coaches are making their debuts on here because there was a decent amount of turnover in the league since last year. Bill Cubit, Kevin Wilson, and Tracy Claeys were all forced out under controversy and as a result the rankings will be a little wonky.

If you want to check out what I wrote on each coach about this time last season, look no further.

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The Real Champions: A Look Back at the 1920′s

I think I’ll have to amend the rules now. We’re so far back in time that going undefeated isn’t enough. There are going to be undefeated teams every year because the game is so decentralized. So now, to be considered the best in the country, a team should go undefeated AND demonstrate that they beat some of the best competition in some way. Also, teams that don’t claim seasons as national championship years probably didn’t deserve it, so I’m really gonna be skeptical about awarding titles to teams unless they have a clear reason for it.

As always, the goal is to decide which teams actually deserve to claim national championships by applying consistent criteria outlined here. If you have the time, check out my analysis of the 2010′s, 2000′s, 1990′s, 1980′s, 1970′s, 1960′s, 1950′s1940′s, and 1930′s.

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Rayvonte Rice’s buzzer beating three to beat Missouri

2016 Out of Conference Grades: Big Ten West

We move on the Big Ten West. God I’m really not hoping they don’t all suck. I have a feeling they do.

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Illinois:
Murray State (9/3), North Carolina (9/10), Western Michigan (9/17)

I guess for the modern Illinois program this is a pretty good schedule. North Carolina is a solid team and it will be a tall task for the Illini to beat. Western Michigan works as a regional Group of 5 school. Murray State takes up the obligatory FCS slot. I guess Illinois is one of those teams who are going to play a lower division opponent right up until the conference forces them not to do so.

Grade: B-

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Iowa:
Miami (OH) (9/3), Iowa State (9/10), North Dakota State (9/17)

I know the Big Ten is trying to stop playing FCS teams, but they should seriously consider making an exception for North Dakota State. They’re the best non-conference team Iowa is playing next year!!!! Iowa State is a fun rivalry game, so that checks the appropriate boxes. Miami of Ohio aren’t that close to Iowa but they’ll do. NDSU are the four time reigning FCS Champions, honestly that’s super cool.

Grade: B

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Minnesota:
Oregon State (9/1), Indiana State (9/10), Colorado State (9/24)

Yeah this feels exactly like a Minnesota schedule. If you’re the Gophers you schedule about as beatable a Power 5 opponent as possible, and Oregon State fits the bill. I like the B1G-PAC games so I don’t mind that much. Though Gary Andersen hasn’t lost to Minnesota yet. Colorado State almost beat the Golden Gophers 10 times last season, and they might be the most competitive team of the non-con slate. Indiana State is the obligatory FCS team.

Grade: B

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Nebraska:
Fresno State (9/3), Wyoming (9/10), Oregon (9/17)

Boy this Oregon game might bite Nebraska in the butt. It looked pretty good right up until Bo Pelini left. Mike Riley probably thought he was done losing to the Ducks, oh well! Still, with Oregon’s potential rebuilding issues, they might slip up in Lincoln. Wyoming is a semi-regular Husker patsy, and Fresno State isn’t an unfamiliar face either. It’s not your daddy’s Cornhusker non-con slate, but these aren’t the classic blackshirts either.

Grade: B

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Northwestern:
Western Michigan (9/3), Illinois State (9/10), Duke (9/17)

Yeah this also feels like a Northwestern schedule. Though I’m still somewhat bitter that they cancelled four of the five remaining games they had scheduled against Stanford right after they beat the Cardinal last season. Duke is a classic NU non-con opponent, a well-regarded, private school that has often sucked for long stretches of time. But not now! Hooray! Western Michigan and Illinois are par for the course 11th and 12th games for the Wildcats. At least they’re somewhat local which might help attendance.

Grade: B

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Purdue:
Eastern Kentucky (9/3), Cincinnati (9/10), Nevada (9/24)

Well since Purdue has been terrible lately I guess this makes sense. Eastern Kentucky is a barely regional FCS program, so that’s not absolute zero. Nevada doesn’t make a ton of sense, but Ball State is playing Indiana so I guess they didn’t want to double up. Cincinnati is a very quality G5 program, and really should be in the P5, so that salvages this slate.

Grade: C+

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Wisconsin:
vs LSU (in Green Bay) (9/3), Akron (9/10), Georgia State (9/17)

THEY DID IT! WISCONSIN DID IT! THEY GOT AN SEC TEAM TO ACTUALLY COME TO BIG TEN TERRITORY!!! What a joyous occasion. All they did was not have to host the game at Camp Randall. I love the novelty of playing a college game at Lambeau. Akron and Georgia State are very average G5 teams but it kinda doesn’t matter with the LSU game on the schedule.

Grade: A-

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For the first time I haven’t given out a solid A. The Big Ten West for the most part is filled with uninspiring non-conference games. There’s a really really good chance that none of these games will feature two ranked teams. This is a Power 5 conference, that’s not supposed to happen.

I didn’t give out any really bad grades either, but that’s because I try to adjust the grading scale based on how good a team is. Since the B1G West has a host of bad teams that kinda explains that as well.