During last year’s BCS National Championship game, as it became increasingly clear that Ohio State was simply no match for Florida, the announcers continually commented on how there was just too much speed on the Gators’ defense for the Buckeyes to contend with. At the time, even though I was annoyed by Florida’s dominance in college sports (they became the first school to be reigning national champs in both basketball and football, on their way to also becoming the first school to win both titles in the same calendar year as well), the one aspect of the game that I enjoyed was reminding myself (and anybody else who’d listen) that our own Ron Zook, now the coach of the Fighting Illini, was responsible for recruiting almost all of the starters on that Florida team. I told myself that even though it’d been a rough few years while he attempted to build a new program here in Champaign, the talent being displayed by his former team as they routed the consensus favorite to become national champions was something that we’d soon see take shape here as well.
It came as a sort of fulfilled prophecy, then, when the announcers began talking about the unbeatable defensive speed of the 2007 Fighting Illini during today’s upset of the once-again #1-ranked Buckeyes. A team that was expected to make the transition this season from the bottom-feeders of the conference in recent years to a serious contender in the near future proved that they were ready to make the jump sooner rather than later. There were a few stumbles along the way this year, but they’ve obviously still managed to more than exceed all expectations. We’ll have a fairly big bowl game to look forward to this year, and a Rose Bowl berth to battle for next year. Nice to see that things have finally turned around.
Although unbeaten seasons in college football are far less rare than they are in college basketball, I suppose we can take this as repayment for when they spoiled our perfect season a few years back.