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Beckman: Illini win 8 in 2015 if coaching staff stays

CHAMPAIGN — The good news, if you’re an Illinois football fan and you’re willing to suspend reality for as long as it takes, is that the Illini are going to win at least eight games next season. So said coach Tim Beckman — he of the 10-24 record — here on Monday.

In fairness to Beckman, this is a guy who tends to base every stated goal on what’s still mathematically possible. And he was answering a question about how good 2015 will be for the program if he and his staff are allowed to keep their jobs — actually answering it, rather than evading it. Gotta appreciate him for that. Most coaches would’ve said a whole lot of nothing.

Before he got to next season, though, he first wanted to address what’s still attainable for his current 4-6 squad.

“If we take care of business in the next two football games or three football games, that’s a seven-win season,” he said. “You’ve got to win one at a time, and we haven’t won five yet. But I would want to say if we’ve already won four and we can continue to get better — which we have each year — if we can take care of business the next three [games], you’re talking about eight wins.”

There, did you get all that? In case you didn’t, that’s victories against Penn State and Northwestern to save this season, then a seventh in a bowl game, all leading to a glorious eight-win breakthrough in Year 4 for Beckman. At that rate, we’ll be talking double-digit Ws by, what, 2017?

The bad news, if you’re an Illinois football fan and you can see what’s right under your nose, is that you know full well the Illini are nowhere close to the levels of success Beckman talks — daydreams? fantasizes? — about. And you know many of the things Beckman says come out of a sort of parallel universe inhabited by only him.

There’s a reason he gets made fun of — a lot — for making statements along the lines of, “If we hadn’t given up those five long touchdown runs, we’d have been in the football game.” And the reason is he makes such statements seemingly all the time.

On Monday, for example, he said this about this year’s Ohio State game: “If we did what we needed to do and consistently moved the chains, did not turn the football over — like we played against Minnesota — in the red zone, capitalize, we could’ve won.”

For the love of God, the Illini lost 55-14.

This is “reality,” if you’re Tim Beckman:

“Right now we’ve got four wins. It’s nothing to brag about, but I do think we’re better than we were [last season] just by numbers, by reality alone. Last year, I couldn’t say we had four wins at this time. I’m telling you we’ve got four wins right now, and I’ve got four wins to prove it.”

All righty, then. How is Illinois better, though? Is it better offensively? Defensively?

“After that last game [a 30-14 loss to Iowa],” he said, “I guess you can’t say either.”

Look, these aren’t easy days for Beckman. He’d love nothing more than for his fondest wishes to come true.

“For everybody. For this program,” he said. “This program’s not about the media, not about me. It’s not about anybody other than the guys that are out there playing. You can bash, you can do whatever you’ve got to do, but that ain’t helping.”

That’s undoubtedly true. Sometimes, though, he makes it so hard.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

Twitter: @slgreenberg