There’s no nice way to say it:
The Lovie Smith experiment at Illinois isn’t working.
It’s Year 4. After a 40-17 loss Saturday at Minnesota, the Illini are 11-30 overall and 4-25 in Big Ten games on Smith’s watch.
Their defense, which Smith runs, remains in over its head. Just look at the last two weeks, in which the Illini (2-3) were outgained 674-299 by Nebraska and, in wet, sloppy conditions, 487-248 by the Gophers.
Smith gets no favors from offensive coordinator Rod Smith. With the Illini training 10-7 in the second quarter in Minneapolis, on their first offensive series after quarterback Brandon Peters was knocked from the game, tailback Reggie Corbin — the team’s best player — ran the ball four consecutive times for 43 yards.
Hope was alive, but then Corbin got only four carries the rest of the game.
The. Rest. Of. The. Game.
With a backup quarterback, Matt Robinson, who can’t throw the ball, the Illini went into throw-it-every-down mode.
This is reality, Illini Nation. This is what football under Lovie Smith looks like. There’s no reason to expect it to become any different.
On to the rest of the ‘‘Big 10’’ (where 10 actually means 10):
2. My account was hacked: Yes, I’m the dummy who picked Illinois to go 6-6 this season and make it to a bowl. Can I tweak that ever so slightly to 3-9? At least they’ll still beat Rutgers — maybe.
3. Son of a . . . : Iowa’s offense was astonishingly bad in a 10-3 loss at Michigan, surrendering eight sacks, turning the ball over four times and committing one penalty after another.
Who’s the coordinator again? Oh, yeah, it’s coach Kirk Ferentz’s son Brian.
That’s not awkward at all.
4. Star Bucks: Michigan State’s elite defense came out flying at Ohio State, putting the smell of an upset in the air — for a few minutes. Buckeyes 34, Spartans 10 was the most impressive score of Week 6. On both sides of the ball, the Buckeyes were frighteningly good. Ryan Day’s team deserves all the No. 1 votes it gets.
5. Slow Pokes: There’s playing to the level of the competition, then there’s whatever you want to call the level Oklahoma State takes it to. After being upset at Texas Tech, the Cowboys are 4-6 against unranked teams and 5-2 against ranked teams the last two seasons.
6. The PU: Boy, Miami stinks. This time, the Hurricanes (2-3) fell behind Virginia Tech, only to roar back into a 35-35 tie — missing the extra point that would’ve made it 36-35 — before falling on a last-minute Hokies touchdown. Wasn’t this once-great program supposed to be, you know, back?
7. Matt Rhule, your table is ready: A Pennsylvania guy through and through, Rhule took the Baylor coaching job at a time when no one else thought that was a wise move. Just look at the Bears now — 5-0 after a dominant 31-12 victory at Kansas State. Impressive.
8. Is that good? Wisconsin has outscored its five opponents 217-29. The craziest thing about it? The Badgers haven’t even played Illinois yet.
9. That’s what he said: ‘‘That’s what they thought of my play-calling.’’
That was Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, nailing the one-liner after a toilet could be heard flushing during his postgame news conference at Kansas. Riley must’ve done at least OK; the No. 6 Sooners rolled up 545 yards in a 45-20 victory.
10. And another thing: Rutgers’ season a lost cause, quarterback Art Sitkowski and running back Raheem Blackshear are hoping to sit out the rest of 2019 to take advantage of the NCAA’s four-game redshirt rule. Actually seeking to spend even more time in the Scarlet Knights’ program? Has to be the upset of the year.