I imagine there’s a fair amount of disappointment in Illini Nation in the wake of that lightning-delayed, penalty-riddled, mistake-filled 47-23 loss to South Florida.

But honestly, it was unlikely to go well for Illinois. And I was more unimpressed, actually, with the Bulls, who are talented but showed a lot of rough edges for a top-25 team.

A quick look at the Bulls’ schedule says they’re going to hang around for a good long while.

On the other hand, any look at Illinois’ schedule says, “Hold on tight. Gonna be a rough ride.’’

That said, I love what sharp Champaign broadcaster/scribe Jeremy Werner pointed out: 10 of Illinois’ 22 starters were true freshmen. And an 11th was a juco transfer.

In other word: Patience.

Time will tell what kind of results Lovie Smith will reap. I’m a bit skeptical, partly because I’m impressed with what’s going on at so many of the other Big Ten programs that Illinois is in true competition with. Purdue, Indiana and Minnesota all are off to encouraging starts, and they’re ahead of Illinois at this point. So is Maryland.

Don’t even ponder the perennial powers at this point.

This trip to Tampa got me thinking about the most difficult, oddest, most over-matched road losses I witnessed in 20-some years on the Illini beat. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.