Fun Stat Nerd Tidbit: Illinois

29 Sep 2001: Brandon Lloyd #6 of the Illinois Fighting Illini runs the ball during the game against the Michigan Wolverines at the Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Wolverines defeated the Fighting Illini 45-20.Mandatory Credit: Tom Pidgeon /Allsport

Since I reference the best ever Illinois teams in today's SBN profile ... let's take a look at them*.

Ten Best Illinois Teams, 1910-2010
1. 1923 Illinois (8-0) (Red Grange!)
2. 1914 Illinois (7-0)
3. 1951 Illinois (9-0-1)
4. 1915 Illinois (5-0-2)
5. 1918 Illinois (5-2)
6. 1919 Illinois (6-1)
7. 1946 Illinois (8-2)
8. 1928 Illinois (7-1)
9. 1927 Illinois (7-0-1)
10. 1917 Illinois (5-2-1)

And since these are all really old teams...

Ten Best Illinois Teams, Last 50 Years
1. 2001 Illinois (10-2)
2. 1963 Illinois (8-1-1) (Butkus!)
3. 1989 Illinois (10-2)
4. 1983 Illinois (10-2)
5. 2007 Illinois (9-4)
6. 1994 Illinois (7-5)
7. 1964 Illinois (6-3)
8. 1999 Illinois (8-4)
9. 1965 Illinois (6-4)
10. 2010 Illinois (7-6)

Illinois has had such an odd history. As we can see, they emerged right alongside Michigan as one of the early century's great powers -- their Red Grange-fueled romp over Michigan in 1924 was legendary. But since famous coach Bob Zuppke retired in 1941, the Illini have delivered just a little over one truly good team per decade. Obviously the star power has remained high here and there (hello, Dick Butkus), but building a strong, healthy program capable of stringing together multiple strong seasons in a row ... that has completely eluded the Illini in recent decades, and it's hard to understand why.

* This list was created using the same criteria for last summer's Top 100 of the Last 100 Years series.

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