Illinois Fighting Illini

CHAMPAIGN, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Jamauri Bogan #32 of the Western Michigan Broncos runs the ball for a touchdown as Julian Hylton #30 of the Illinois Fighting Illini follows at Memorial Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Western Michigan gets second B1G win of season, this one at Illini’s expense

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If you squint and look at the standings in juuust the right light, it’s Western Michigan sitting atop the Big Ten’s West division.

WMU’s win over Northwestern in the season opener gave the MAC a win over a B1G school for a record 11th consecutive season.  Two weeks later, P.J. Fleck & Company rowed their boat to another B1G win.

On the strength of Jamauri Bogan‘s 189 yards rushing — he averaged 7.9 yards per carry — WMU ran over, through and around a porous Illinois defense for an easy 34-10 win.  As a team, the Broncos ran for 281 yards.

WMU’s run defense was their offensive counterpart’s equal, holding the Illini, which has lost to MAC schools three times in the conference’s 11-year streak, to just three yards rushing in 15 attempts.

The win was the Broncos second over the Illini in the five games in which they’ve played.  WMU owns a 6-31 record against BiG teams since 1963, although they own a 2-1 advantage over Iowa.

Get ready for the Week 2 hangover: Five games to watch this week

Battle At Bristol
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After Florida State and Texas helped close out the greatest opening weekend in college football history the past two nights, all eyes have now shifted to what’s ahead for an encore in Week 2. Unfortunately for fans, the college football scheduling gods have not been as kind to us in the second week of the season, which is to be expected when we have been so spoiled out of the gate this fall.

The five most intriguing games of Week 2 to follow are listed below:

Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech: The Battle at Bristol will pit Tennessee against Virginia Tech on the infield of Bristol Motor Speedway. The Vols escaped an upset bid by Appalachian State on Thursday night, while the Justin Fuente Era in Blacksburg got off to decent start by pulling away from Liberty. The Vols must play a sharper game on offense, because the Hokies will be feeding off the film they got from Thursday night’s game.

TCU vs. Arkansas: Both the Horned Frogs and Razorbacks opened the season with a win this past weekend, but neither did so in a fashion that inspires a tremendous amount of confidence. Were they each saving a little something for this matchup between the Big 12 and SEC, or are there some concerns that need to be addressed by Gary Patterson and Bret Bielema. This matchup in Fort Worth should provide some energy.

Pittsburgh vs. Penn State: For the first time in 16 years, these in-state rivals are set to renew their rivalry. It is difficult to comprehend the idea that a generation of college football fans in Pennsylvania have yet to experience a game between the Panthers and Nittany Lions, but they finally get their first taste of it this Saturday in western PA. It is the first of a four-game scheduling arrangement over the next four seasons. Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi has shut his team off from the media to avoid distractions this week.

Florida vs. Kentucky: The Gators were sluggish on offense in their opener before starting to pull away from UMass. Kentucky let one slip away at home last week against Southern Miss. The Gators have won 29 straight in this series dating back to 1987 and have lost just once to the Wildcats since 1980. Kentucky has not won in The Swamp since 1979. With this being the SEC opener for each, getting a jump on the division race is key, and Kentucky is already on thin ice for making postseason play after dropping last week’s game.

Utah vs. BYU: The Holy War always is worth watching because these two schools hate each other with a wild passion. Both teams enter with 1-0 records after Utah handled Southern Utah and BYU clipped Arizona in the opener. Can the Cougars go 2-0 against the Pac-12 out of the gates?

OTHER GAMES ON THE RADAR

Baylor vs. SMU: SMU still has a long way to go but could put up some offense against Baylor.

Texas vs. UTEP: After a thriller against the Irish, can Charlie Strong’s team avoid a letdown?

Boise State vs. Washington State: The Broncos were impressive last week while Mike Leach’s Cougars took a home loss against Eastern Washington.

South Florida vs. NIU: With NIU taking a loss on the road last week at Wyoming, the Huskies need a win to remain in the Group of Five hunt before it pulls away from them entirely.

Oregon vs. Virginia: The Cavaliers were trounced at home by Richmond in Bronco Mendenhall’s Virginia debut. Now they fly to Oregon? Uh-oh.

Arizona State vs. Texas Tech: Offense on offense on offense.

Illinois vs. UNC: Lovie Smith’s Illini played well in its opener and they host UNC coming off a loss.

THE TEAM YOU DON’T WANT TO BE THIS WEEK

Wofford: The FCS program travels to Ole Miss this week. You think the Rebels will be ready to unload some pent-up frustration after losing to Florida State Monday night?

FCS USET ALERT OF THE WEEK

Illinois State vs. Northwestern: Though one should logically assume Northwestern bounces back at home this week after dropping one to Western Michigan, Illinois State is coming in as one of the top FCS programs there is. Don’t be surprised if No. 9 Illinois State hangs around longer than Northwestern fans would be comfortable seeing.

Also, No. 5 Jacksonville State is visiting LSU, who lost last week in Green Bay. The Jaguars pushed Auburn to the limit last season and we know LSU’s passing game is a concern. You just never know!

CFT Previews: The Big Ten

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 15: J.T. Barrett #16 of the Ohio State Buckeyes carries the football during the first quarter of the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on November 15, 2014 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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If there was ever a season the Big Ten looked like the Big Two and the Little Ten, this was it. Michigan State is reloading, while the rest of the conference scraps for space amongst themselves as Ohio State and Michigan take off into their own stratosphere.

Here’s a quick glance at how we think the Big Ten shakes out.

EAST
1. Ohio State (12-1 overall in 2015, 7-1 Big Ten): Losing all but six of your 22 starters would be a problem for anyone but Ohio State. If the 2014 team played like a pack of lions, the 2015 bunch was a pack of lions playing with a belly full of antelope: the ability was there, the desire wasn’t. This year’s group is just as talented, they just haven’t had the chance to prove it yet.

2. Michigan (10-3, 6-2 Big Ten): Many think next year will be The Year for Michigan. Jim Harbaugh doesn’t like working on other people’s timelines. I like this year’s team to lose to Ohio State but still reach the College Football Playoff.

3. Michigan State (12-2, 7-1 Big Ten): Seemingly every year Michigan State reaches a height previously thought to be unattainable, but last year’s second-in-three-years Big Ten championship and CFP appearance feels like the farthest Mark Dantonio can take this team now that Michigan is no longer out to a decade-long lunch.

4. Penn State (7-6, 4-4 Big Ten): With college football’s most miserable marriage of James Franklin and Christian Hackenberg at long last over, this should be the year Penn State starts to look like the Penn State Franklin wants it to be, especially with Joe Moorhead running the offense. The residual effects of the sanctions, though, say 2017 may be more like it.

5. Maryland (3-9, 1-7 Big Ten): Might as well place a giant “Under Construction” sign out side the program as D.J. Durkin works to build Maryland into a program after Jim Harbaugh‘s image.

6. Rutgers (3-9, 1-7 Big Ten): Ditto as above, but with an even larger “Under Construction” sign and Harbaugh’s mug crossed out from it and Urban Meyer‘s pasted crudely on top.

7. Indiana (6-7, 2-7 Big Ten): Kevin Wilson has done some nice things in Bloomington. He’s run the ball as well as anyone in the conference, he put a scare into Ohio State last season and he took the Hooisers to a bowl game. The rest of the Big Ten East is getting better, though, and Indiana is, well, Indiana.

WEST (A.K.A.: THE BIGGEST TOSS-UP IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL)
1. Nebraska (6-7, 3-5 Big Ten): In a division that will largely come down to who gets lucky at the right time, go with a team whose luck is due to flip after losing six one-score games in 2015.

2. Northwestern (10-3, 6-2 Big Ten): Normally Northwestern takes a tumble after Pat Fitzgerald‘s bunch builds to a 10-win peak, needing to reload after losing the bulk of a senior-laden team. The 2016 Wildcats bring back enough to contend again.

3. Iowa (12-2, 8-0 Big Ten): Kirk Ferentz‘s teams zig when they’re supposed to zag, and zag when they’re supposed to zig. Last year’s undefeated regular season, coming one stop shy of an improbable Cotton Bowl run, was a zig. Most expect the Hawkeyes to zig again this year. We know better.

4. Wisconsin (10-3, 6-2 Big Ten): Feels like Paul Chryst, while a solid coach, will only take the Badgers to heights seen previously under Gary Andersen and Bret Bielema, but not above them.

5. Illinois (5-7, 2-6 Big Ten): New AD Josh Whitman made a bold move in hiring longtime NFL coach Lovie Smith to head a program to which he had no prior connection. Building the Illini to a contender will take time, but keeping Wes Lunt healthy may be all Illinois needs to reach a bowl game this fall.

6. Minnesota (6-7, 2-6 Big Ten): ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit has the Gophers winning the Big Ten West. I’m willing to be wrong in saying he’ll be way, way wrong.

7. Purdue (2-10, 1-7 Big Ten): Make no mistake: this is a make or break year for Darrell Hazell, especially with new AD Mike Bobinski now in place. I think he’ll break.

Tim Beckman steps down from volunteer post at North Carolina

CHAMPAIGN, IL - NOVEMBER 16:  Head coach Tim Beckman of the Illinois Fighting Illini gives instructions to his team against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Champaign, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Tim Beckman will no longer volunteer with North Carolina’s football program, it was announced Thursday night.

Head coach Larry Fedora indicated Wednesday his friend and former Illinois head coach was worth the cyclical round of bad press, but this statement from his boss indicated the decision was never run up the proverbial flag pole. Said UNC chancellor Carol Folt:

“When I first learned yesterday that Coach Larry Fedora had invited former Illinois head coach Tim Beckman to serve as a volunteer with the football program, I was surprised and disappointed. The decision for Mr. Beckman to withdraw from his volunteer position was the right thing to do, and moving forward I don’t expect this situation to recur. I continue to put a great deal of trust in Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham and Coach Fedora to educate and develop our student-athletes and to ensure we meet the high standards we all expect at Carolina.”

Fedora agreed, or at least it was decided for him that he would agree.

“Tim will no longer serve as a volunteer with our program. I brought Tim here to help a friend gain experience from our staff, but after meeting with him today, we agreed his presence had become too much of a distraction.”

Added Beckman:

“I appreciate the opportunity Coach Fedora gave me to stay connected to the sport and be around one of the best staffs in the country.  His willingness to help a friend was a benefit both personally and professionally.  I do not wish to be a further distraction to the team or University and I will no longer serve as a volunteer at UNC. I wish Larry and the program nothing but success going forward.”

Beckman was forced out at Illinois nearly a year ago today after an investigation by a Chicago law firm uncovered a culture of player mistreatment, where Beckman and his assistants routinely pressured players to play through major injuries, and belittled and threatened those who would not.

Beckman sat out the 2016 season, and now he’ll sit out the ’17 campaign as well.

Report: Ex-Illini coach Tim Beckman now a volunteer assistant at UNC

CHAMPAIGN, IL - SEPTEMBER 20: Head coach Tim Beckman of the Illinois Fighting Illini protests a call to the officials during the game against the Texas State Bobcats at Memorial Stadium on September 20, 2014 in Champaign, Illinois.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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This one might not go over too well with some/most segments of the North Carolina fan base.

According to a report overnight from the Champaign News-Gazette, former Illinois head coach Tim Beckman has been added to Larry Fedora‘s UNC football staff as a volunteer assistant coach.  Beckman and Fedora have a previous working relationship, having been on the same Oklahoma State staff in 2007.

The Tar Heels have thus far declined to comment publicly on Beckman’s reported addition, and likely for good reason.

Nearly one year ago to the day, Beckman was fired as the head coach at Illinois amidst allegations of mistreatment of players, specifically those who were injured.  Those allegations led to an independent investigation initiated by the university.

The firing came more than three months after a former player accused the coach of “misuse and abuse of power,” while another stated shortly thereafter that Beckman “takes the cake as the worst coach I ever met.”  Athletic director Mike Thomas initially supported Beckman, but the preliminary results of an external review into the accusations forced Thomas into pulling the trigger.

Saying he was “shocked and disappointed,” Beckman labeled the allegations “totally false” in a post-dismissal statement. “I firmly deny the implications in Mike’s statements that I took any action that was not in the best interests of the health, safety and well-being of my players,” the coach stated, adding, “The health and well-being of our student-athletes is of paramount importance.”

To add another layer to this development?  North Carolina and Illinois will face each other Sept. 10 this year in Champaign.  It’s unknown if Beckman will be a part of UNC’s traveling party.