Monday, December 31, 2007

Ron Zook Getting Much Deserved Love

Seeing as this is going to be my last column for 2007, I thought it was fitting to first wish everyone a Happy New Year. One person who has had a great 2007 has to be Ron Zook. Once the hated coach at the University of Florida, Zook has finally found a home in Illinois. This season has been the best season for the Illini since 2001, when they finished 10-2. From 2003 to 2006, Illinois lost 30 of 32 conference games. They went from having a 2-10 record last year to 9-3 and has a birth in the Rose bowl New Years Day on ABC against the USC Trojans. Zook's efforts were rewarded with the Liberty Mutual coach of the year award. Zook has turned around a team that a couple of years ago could barely win a game, to Big Ten title contenders in just two years.

Zook is An Amazing Recruiter.
In 2002, Zook took over the Florida Gators and in three years complied a 23-14 record. A record most teams would see as a pretty good record. It didn't sit well with Gator fans, and Zook was sent packing and replaced by Urban Meyer. In Meyer's first season, he lead the Gators to the National Championship where the Gators defeated Ohio State 42-14. Twenty two of the twenty four starters in that National Championshp were recruited by Zook. Now he is building a great team in Champaign. His first year his recruiting class included Isiah "Juice" Williams, considered one of the best quarterback prospects of 2006. Juice is now a huge part of the Illini's offensive game plan, and was a big reason why Illinios beat Ohio State in Columbus in early November. Now Illinois has the 16th best recruiting class in the country for 2008 thanks to Zook. Not bad for a team that in 2006 went 2-10. Watch out Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin, Illinois is about to move up and challenge you every year for the Big Ten Title.

Rose Bowl Notes and Expectations

Despite Illinois good year, I believe they have no business being in the Rose Bowl this season. For one Illinois has lost three games. Now don't take this the wrong way losing three games is a great season, but they should be in a big New Years Day bowl, not the five biggest bowl games of the season. Missouri, one of the three teams that beat the Illini, had a better record the Illinois and was left out of the BCS. The Tigers should have that spot over the Illini in my opinion. It is like the head to head match up didn't even matter. I know the Rose Bowl likes to go with the traditional Big Ten vs PAC 10 match up, but does the Big Ten really deserve to have two teams in the BCS this year? They were one of the most underachieving conferences this year. Illinois is the bright spot in the Big Ten this year, but no three loss team has ever made a BCS at large bid. What did Illinois do to deserve it? Anyway enough of me ranting lets get to the game against USC. I think USC wins by at least 20. Illinois is a good running team and USC is good at stopping the run. The Trojans should have no problem beating, but that shouldn't take away from what the Illini have been able to do this season. In a couple of years this team could be playing for a national title, and it will all be thanks to Ron Zook.

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