Just two days away from July, exactly two weeks from the release of NCAA Football 11, does that make it football season yet? I wouldn’t say so, but according to fightingillini.com, football is on the brain for current and upcoming orange and blue students. As said by the site, the Block I, Illinois’ football student section, has officially sold out. “Our high season ticket renewal rate, sold out horseshoe and Block I sellout all point to more great crowds for Fighting Illini football this season” said Chris Hanna, Assistant Athletic Director of Sales and Marketing. This isn’t a huge feat but at least somebody is excited about what will be going on this fall in Champaign, besides Midnight Madness, where you will get your first look at Jereme Richmond.
Last season, the Block I was sold out as well, unfortunately by the time yours truly made his way over to freshman orientation all spots were gone, but not this year. I’m moving up in the world, or at least that’s what I told myself when I made sure to secure my seat to see (1) the birth of a star QB, (2) the last season of Ron Zook on the sidelines, (3) a half empty stadium by mid October, (4) Mikel Leshoure rep Champaign while running like the last Illini running back to wear #5, or any combination of the four. What is for sure is that this season is going to come with a bunch of unknowns, just ask ESPN’s Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenburg. In his segment “Best Case/Worst Case”(http://espn.go.com/blog/bigten/post/_/id/13069/video-best-caseworst-case-illinois), Rittenburg said the Illini could reach a ceiling of 8 or 9 wins if everything goes well this season. On the other hand, if things go sour, Zook could be staring a 2-10 record directly in the face, with basketball season coming before Halloween in the Paign.
I know what you’re thinking, “how can one team have the potential to win 8 or 9 games but also lose 10?” My answer, welcome to Illinois football where everything is based on potential. Petrino’s offense could do wonders, just look at Ryan Mallet who could very well be the first QB taken in next year’s draft,
Martez and Mikel could break out and be Big Ten first teamers, and the Illini could make some noise in a deep conference that will only get deeper in 2011. Yeah, I’ll take this scenario in a heartbeat, but you always have to worry about an absolute collapse which has been the storyline all but two years in the past decade at Memorial Stadium. Scheelhaase could go through terrible growing pains against Big Ten defenses, Martez could hurt his neck again, the offensive line might fail to open up enough holes for Leshoure and Ford, combine that with some shaky coaching and there you have a 2-10 season.
I don’t want to get too caught up in a bunch of football talk just yet, but the season really is just down the street, over the bridge, and around the corner. Take it from me, the students and other season ticket holders will pack Memorial Stadium in early September but whether the place is jammed in November against Minnesota as the Illini fight for a good bowl birth or whether it will be empty as fans wait to see the Illini play Presbeterian at the Hall, well, that is up Zook & Co. More on Illinois football in the future, but for now, the Block I is sold out and if you haven’t already, go buy your golden ticket because this season is going to be like a rollercoaster: either the ride of your life or a reason to throw up. Hopefully it’s somewhere closer to the first one.