Losing to Indiana in football is never a good thing. Neither is losing 19 straight conference games. But when those misfortunes are combined, you’re in big trouble.
Tim Beckman is still searching for his first Big Ten win after his Fighting Illini (3-6, 0-5 B1G) fell to Indiana (4-5, 2-3 B1G) in a 52-35 shootout last Saturday. With undefeated No. 3 Ohio State visiting this weekend, you can assume Beckman’s wait will continue for another week.
That being said, the Illini are headed for another losing season. Regardless of how they finish, however, they will have improved on last season’s 2-10 fiasco.
Improvement might not be so evident other than in the win-loss column, given that the Illini have lost by an average of 43-23 in Big Ten games. But the offense, ranked last in the B1G in points (16.7) and total offense last season (296.7), has kept the team in games for the most part in 2013. It’s the defense that’s what has been in such sorry shape.
Beckman might have needed a bowl appearance to surely save his job, but that is now virtually out of the question with Ohio State on deck. At this point, all he can really do is focus on getting his first Big Ten win.
After Ohio State, the Illini close out the season against hapless Purdue and Northwestern, which is on a five-game losing streak of its own. Those are two winnable games, ones that represent Beckman’s newest best chance at breaking through.
If fails both times, it’s hard to imagine that AD Mike Thomas will retain him, especially after two consecutive winless seasons in the Big Ten.
But again, it’s all about progress. It’s unclear what Thomas will consider as “progress” when making a decision, but for a perennially downtrodden program like Illinois, I don’t know what he considers to be failure either.