Some of it--the choice and timing of nonconference opponents--is Illinois' doing. Some of it is the bizarre way the Big Ten comes up with its schedules, which makes me think they must be generated by an old Commodore VIC-20 down in the basement of the home office in Park Ridge.
But here's the point: When I asked Juice Williams about the schedule, he showed a lot of knowledge and maturity. It ought to be very encouraging to Illini fans who wonder about opening with four major-college opponents (Missouri, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State) that were a combined 40-13 last year, finishing with two dangerous nonconference games (Cincinnati and Fresno State) and playing a string of tricky middle games in between (at Indiana, at Purdue, Michigan, at MInnesota, Northwestern).
`You can't base your schedule on what you saw last year,'' the senior quarterback said. ``We were in the Rose Bowl two years ago. What did we do last year? Going off last year's hype is good to talk about. You can make all these predictions and assumptions.
``But once you put the pads on in a new season, it's two totally different things. Whether its the No. 1 team in the country, or the last team in the country, we're gonna go out there and hit you hard. We're going to be efficient on offense, and come out and try to do our thing.''
Good for Juice. We may look back at this schedule next December and say: Bad idea. But the players need to tune that out and go play, and from the sound of their quarterback, that's what they intend to do.