Competence and credibility.

Those are two words that have rarely associated University of Illinois football. Although Saturday featured the FCS Murray State Racers making the trek to Champaign, the Illini may have finally achieved this lofty combo with new head coach hire Love Smith.

Tim Beckman talked about his mom’s lasagna. Lovie talks about winning football games and brought in a staff with a wealth of NFL experience.

The Racers sure weren’t racing in the run game, finishing with -10 yards on the ground en route to losing by seven touchdowns.  Illinois also forced three turnovers via their defense. The hire of Lovie Smith and his defensive coaching prowess is already paying dividends.

This is a program that plays in the Big Ten West, which is about as erratic as Gary Busey.

It’s going to be tough for Iowa to replicate their last season. Wisconsin had an impressive defensive performance against LSU and had a nice year last season. Nebraska finished the regular season 5-7 in 2015. Nobody is sure Minnesota can look the part of a solid team. Northwestern was rowed over by the Western Michigan boat on the first Saturday of the season.

And there’s Purdue.

Is Illinois going to make the Big Ten Championship? Hell no, but who am I to tell you not to spend your hard earned money on a lottery ticket?

What is clear, though, is that this newly-found competence and credibility is going to lead to a quick turnaround within the next few years. That’s a bet you can take to the bank. Michigan State, Ohio State, and Michigan are on the other side of the conference. It’s really that simple.

North Carolina and their dynamic offense come to Memorial Stadium next weekend in a game sure to set the tone for the rest of Illinois’ season.

After being canned by the university for neglecting player safety, Tim Beckman began volunteering as a coach for UNC and left the program, all in a matter of days.

Personally, I was looking forward for hearing from the coach who on separate occasions suggested losses would have been different if you took out ten plays from one game or in another three touchdowns on three plays.

And he got his mom’s birthday wrong in a press conference.

This program is about to show how rejuvenated it really is our how much Lovie needs to make this program grow, but the direction is going north toward, uh, Chicago? Well, maybe not…  Northwestern is their “Big Ten team.”

Forgot about that wonderful Evanston skyline. Whatever.

Now, back to my lasagna.