Mike Hlas is an award-winning columnist with the Cedar Rapids Gazette and force behind The Hlog. Each week, he will break down the biggest mismatch in college football. Considering the increasing number of uncompetitive games, Mike's task is more challenging than keeping the neighbor kids from taking the helium balloon for a spin.
Ron Zook pumped life into a dormant Illinois program. Then the air immediately seeped out of the tires, and things are right back where Zook found them.
The Fighting Illini were more like the Comatose Illini before Zook arrived and in his first two years in Champaign-Urbana.
Illinois was 1-11 in 2003 and 3-8 in 2004. Enter Zook, who somehow transformed Florida from a national power to a face in the SEC crowd.
Zook's first two Illini teams were 2-9 and 2-10, but the man recruited hither and yon to bring big-time talent to the eastern Illinois prairie. Everything came together nicely in 2007 with a dynamic sophomore quarterback named Isaiah "Juice" Williams.
Illinois won nine games and reached the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1983. Then the Illini played a team that really knows how to recruit. USC brutalized them, 49-17.
Juice is still in Champaign (Isn't that called a mimosa?), but the winning is long gone. Illinois went 5-7 last year, and things have only gotten worse.
The Illini are 1-4 this season, and 0-3 in the Big Ten. They got systematically destroyed by Missouri, Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State.
But now Zook (career-record 42-48) faces a foe on his team's level. Illinois visits Indiana in the Game of the Weak.
Call him crazy, but Wiz correspondent Greg Laughlin decided to take in two games on Saturday, first attending the Indiana-Akron game at the Zips' new InfoCision Stadium. He has several excellent shots of the new facility, and if you want to view his gallery from the game, click here.
Our man Greg continued his weekend trip with a stop in Bloomington for Saturday's Michigan State-Indiana game. The Hoosiers went toe-to-toe with the Spartans for three quarters, but Javon Ringer wore down Indiana and Michigan State pulled away for a 42-29 victory. Sparty was showing off the goods before kickoff. The burger bar. Impressive stuff here. Breakfast in Bloomington includes vodka. After consuming breakfast, this is what happens. So easy, a Caveman could do it. Check out the young woman wearing the "Dry Campus" T-shirt. Really, what's the point of going to college? Which do you prefer? The G, the O, the I or the U? Even if the Hoosiers can't talk the talk, they can walk the walk. With Indiana unable to keep pace, it was time to turn to the dogs. That's Ringer, No. 23, racking up yardage. He had 198 yards in 44 carries and, caught two passes and returned two kicks. If he stays healthy and keeps this up, Ringer will be in the running for the Heisman. Attendance was 31,832. Plenty of good seats, as you can see, were available. That's Assembly Hall in the background, formerly home to Bob Knight.