Exclusive Content   Join Now

Illini fighting to escape
Dozen repeat

Aug 10, 2004 1:13 AM

The Dirty Dozen is back for a fourth season as a public service to bettors, who don’t have to bet on good teams to make money in college football.

This is a forum for glorifying have-nots. Forget Michigan and Ohio State, it was Illinois that was clearly the worst in the Big 10 and enters this year’s bottom 12 competition as the defending champion.

The "Fightless Illini" were a humbling 1-10 against the spread in joining past "Double D" champs Baylor (2002) and Duke (2001). The chance of Illinois repeating is minimal after scheduling Florida A&M, UCLA and Western Michigan in the first three games — all at home. Time to break out the "Champaign."

Still, as defending champs, the Illini have to remain in the Dozen until they post a cover, so let the fun begin.

12) Illinois: In fact, the Illini play seven of their 11 regular season games at home. There are 16 starters back from last year, which may not be a good thing. UCLA in Week 3 was the lone cover and the Illini has a streak of nine "non-covers" in a row entering the Sept. 4 opener with Florida A&M.

11) Notre Dame: Why did Ty Willingham leave Stanford? Just maybe, this could finally be the year Navy wins! The Irish were 4-8 ATS last year, though they do play a brutal schedule. ND opens Sept. 4 at BYU, then comes Michigan, Michigan State, Washington, Purdue and Stanford. Later on, there comes Tennessee and USC. Ouch!

10) Miss State: The first thing new coach Sylvester Croom must do in Starkville is get out of this poll. The Bulldogs open with improved Tulane and Auburn before a Week 3 showdown at home against Maine. What! State will probably be looking behind when facing LSU the next week. The Bulldogs are 0-6 ATS in their last six games.

9) Texas A&M: It’s entirely appropriate for the school that gave us the 12th man to be a part of the Dozen. The Aggies fell 77-0 at Oklahoma as a 31-point underdog. A&M may be the only team in college history to allow and score 70 in the same season. The 73-10 win over Baylor was one of just two covers. The Sept. 2 opener at Utah will tell plenty.

8) UCLA: A lot of people, including us, are wondering how Karl "Ball of Confusion" Dorrell ever got the coaching job. The Bruins have lost the past three seasons to USC by 27, 21 and 25 points. UCLA brings a four-game ATS losing streak into this year’s home opener against Oklahoma State. Week 2 at Illinois will be a classic.

7) Hawaii: I recall those weekly Saturday nights at the Stardust watching the Rainbows close the action with Timmy Chang throwing an interception to cost me a cover. Remember last year’s Hawaii Bowl? Hawaii 54, Houston 48. The Bows failed to cover, of course, as a 10½-point favorite. Hawaii opens with Florida Atlantic. Who?

6) Arizona State: Last year was supposed to be huge for passing QB Andrew Walter. Instead, the Sun Devils went 1-9 ATS until beating a brutal Arizona bunch as a 15-point favorite, 28-7. ASU has UTEP and Northwestern in its first two games so Walter should be able to hit a few bombs before facing Iowa in Week 3.

5) Iowa State: The Cyclones covered their first six games in 2002. They failed to cover their last 10 in 2003. Somehow Coach Dan McCarney has survived nine seasons in Ames with an overall 38-67 SU mark. ISU scheduled Northern Iowa last year as a patsy prior to Iowa. The Clones barely won 17-10. Same opener this year and Iowa is on deck.

4) Central Florida: We hear UCF might be a sleeper in the Mighty MAC, but needs to shake a 2-9 ATS mark to slip out of the poll. A big step to that happening was hiring former Georgia Tech coach George O’Leary. UCF wasn’t interested in O’Leary’s resume, unlike Notre Dame. Wisconsin at Madison is a bad way to welcome George.

3) Buffalo: Actually the Bulls were fairly decent (4-7 ATS) to warrant a place in the Dozen. One college football service rates Buffalo the worst out of 117 teams in its Division I system. That’s definitely worth a spot in the "bottom 3." Buffalo is 5-30 in the last three years, but a respectable 14-19 ATS. Look for some more back door covers.

2) Army: Bobby Ross, who has coached everywhere from the NFL to The Citadel, is back in his element at another military school. This mule needs a good kick, after going a perfect 0-13 SU last season. Yes, the Cadets played 13 games. Army ended the year with four straight "non-covers" including a 34-6 loss to Navy. Good luck.

1) UTEP: This is Mike Price’s reward for leaving Washington State and getting caught up in a scandal at Alabama. The Miners have managed a grand total of three Division I wins over the last three years. UTEP was 6-5 ATS, so the honor is ceremonial. From Alabama to El Paso and facing Weber State. Wow!