It Should Be ‘Bowl Or Bust’ For Beckman In 2014

TBToday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) Tim Beckman’s coaching career at the University of Illinois has started off with two straight losing seasons. So did Ron Zook’s. Ditto for Ron Turner’s.

But the last Illini football coach to debut with three consecutive sub-.500 campaigns was Gary Moeller back in 1977-’79. And he didn’t survive to see a fourth.

So, will Beckman live to see 2015 in Champaign?

The answer is that he absolutely will if he breaks through this year with a bowl-qualifying team like Zook and Turner both did in their third seasons in Champaign. While I have my doubts that Beckman’s 2014 Illini have what it takes to get the six wins they’ll need to go bowling, there’s no doubt they have a schedule that makes it a possibility.

Last fall, after Illinois escaped West Lafayette with a 20-16 win over hapless Purdue to snap the program’s 20-game Big Ten losing streak and Beckman’s personal 14-game conference skid, Champaign News-Gazette columnist Loren Tate stoked hopes for a brighter future when he noted that beginning with this Saturday’s opener at Memorial Stadium (11 a.m., BTN), the Illini will play in 10 consecutive home games “in which they should be competitive or favored.”

“The 2014 home slate,” wrote Tate, “offers Youngstown State, Western Kentucky, Texas State, Purdue, Minnesota, Iowa and Penn State, and the 2015 campaign begins with Kent State, Western Illinois and Middle Tennessee. This is not to suggest that Illinois will sweep the four conference foes (in 2014), but it’s also true that these four are not the Big Ten’s strongest members.”

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