Although playing football while the corpse of Tim Beckman's tenure at Illinois is still warm seems disrespectful, Illinois has not announced any plans to reschedule it's season opener against Kent State. So, mourning be damned, the Illini will kick-off the Bill Cubit era at 8 pm Friday night while trying to compete for fans with the local high school juggernauts. To help us understand a little more about Illinois's opponent, the Golden Flashes, beat writer Allen Moff of the Record-Courier answered a few questions.
Smile Politely: Illinois scheduled this game on a Friday night because all MAC teams are just a step above high school, correct?
Allen Moff: Correct, right along with the bottom half of the Big Ten.
SP: Is returning 19 starters from a 2-9 team an advantage, or would the Flashes be better off starting fresh with inexperienced starters?
Moff: Since many of the 19 returning starters were underclassmen who probably played sooner than they should have last season, taking that experience into this season should be a good thing.
SP: If Jordan Italiano is the smartest player in college football, as the NFL claims, then why hasn't he come up with a better way to organize the defense or figured out a better nuclear deal with Iran?
Moff: He's actually a chemistry/pre-med major who may very well some day find a cure for cancer, then look back and think about how much more difficult it was to lead Kent State's defense.
SP: Last season, quarterback Colin Reardon threw more interceptions than touchdowns, which is almost good enough to get him an offer from Illinois. Could he double his ratio of interceptions to touchdowns this year?
Moff: With a youthful offensive line and no running game to speak of last season, Reardon tried to do it all — which led to repeated breakdowns and turnovers. The hope is that the Flashes have improved around Reardon this season, especially up front, which should lead to improved efficiency by the offense as a whole and Reardon in particular. We shall see.
SP: The Flashes seem to have had a hard time replacing Darrell Hazell, a guy who has led Purdue to an illustrious 4-20 record in his first two years there. Was Mike Locksley or a Petrino brother unavailable?
Moff: Sorry, Purdue [Ed. note: no one is really sorry for Purdue], but Hazell may have used up his allotment of miracles at Kent State. As for his replacement, Paul Haynes was a star cornerback for one of the three Kent State teams that finished above .500 since 1977. He also was an assistant coach for the Flashes for two years, when they went 3-19. He knows the place well. And he still took the job.
SP: Nick Saban played and started his coaching career at Kent State. Should the school initiate legal action to stake a claim to one of his national titles?
Moff: Lawyer fees would wipe out Kent State's entire athletic budget. I say just hire Saban's former teammate, Jack Lambert, to go collect. Lambert's old now, but he's still ratchety as ever from what I hear.
SP: Is the hybrid bird/lightning bolt seen on the Flashes' helmet native to the Cleveland/Akron area or did all the good logo designers leave with all the jobs?
Moff: No clue on this one. Most fans seem to like the logo and mascot Flash, but no one's really sure what he is.
SP: Given the stellar state of both programs currently, what's your prediction for how great this game will be?
Moff: The last time Kent State played a Big 10 team, the Flashes lost 66-0 and never crossed midfield (last year at Ohio State). I don't believe Illinois will come close to topping that beating.
Illinois-Kent State kicks off Friday, September 4th, at 8 pm. Chris Davies will tweeting be snark at the game, @chris_d_davies; for a less bitter take on the action, follow our guest, Allen Moff, @allenmoff_rc.