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Illinois' Smaller Colleges Get Some Respect

While there doesn't seem to be much of a chance to be watching any of Illinois' division one college teams in a bowl game this year (ok Northern may have a chance) there seems to be a wealth of opportunity in seeing those in Div IAA or the NAIA go deep into their college football playoffs.

The rankings for both the NAIA & Div I AA have several of Illinois' smaller schools ranked in their respective top 25's. The ESPN/USA Today poll for Div IAA has Western Illinois sitting pretty on the number 1 spot with 20 first place votes. This puts them just above second ranked Georgia Southern (19) & last years Div I AA Champs Western Kentucky.

While Western (2-0) may not be in the top spot after week 3, they face Div I A LSU at LSU, LSU currently is ranked 13th in Div I A. Illinois fans may find solace, that even if they slip completely out of the top 25, Southern Illinois (2-0) ranked #23 will remain.

SIU is in the same conference as Western, the Gateway, which could mean by the end of the season one of the two could end up out of the top 25 but if things keep going this way, mark your calendars for Otc. 18th, when SIU travels to Macomb to play WIU.

Also entering the Div I AA top 25 poll at #14 is Eastern Illinois. EIU, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, won't have to face WIU or SIU this season, but could play a tough Illinois State team who passed for over 500 yards last week versus the University of Illinois.

Mean while down in the depths of college football where there are few athletic scholarships and they play for the love of the game. Look out for Illinois McKendree, Chicago St. Xavier & Joliet Junior College, all making waves in their respective polls.

While McKendree & St. Xavier are ranked #4 & #19 in the NAIA poll, Joliet has been ranked #1 or #2 by different Junior College polls across the country. JJC is coming off back to back Junior College National Championships for 2001 & 2002.

While some of the key players for the Div I AA teams are from high schools across the country, the majority of players on the teams are comprised from an Illinois origin.

With more national attention being given to these teams, including this weeks matchup of WIU vs. LSU. Thing may be looking up for many of Illinois' college players. Think Tony Romo making the Dallas Cowboys.

While a chance to claim some of the lime light, like Northern Illinois did when it upset a then ranked Maryland team in week one, might not be very likely. A close game could put some WIU players on the map for upcoming NFL Drafts.

While the season is still young, things are looking up for small college fans all over Illinois and hopefully for some of the high school graduates of Illinois schools.

by Vincent Johnson




























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