Three-Dot Dash: Illinois’ Bret Bielema has a huge decision — Luke Altmyer or John Paddock at QB?

By Chicago 6 Min Read

One Q for “Coach B”:

Who’s QB1?

Illinois’ Bret Bielema has a spicy meatball of a question to answer as the Illini (5-5) move on from a 48-45 overtime win against Indiana and into a week of preparation for a critical game at Iowa. Do he and offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. hand the starting quarterback reins back to Luke Altmyer, who missed the Indiana game with an injury but should be good to go when practice resumes? Or is backup John Paddock — who lit the world on fire against the Hoosiers — suddenly the man?

A week after coming in cold with 1:25 to play at Minnesota and leading a game-winning 85-yard touchdown drive — all through the air — Paddock, a walk-on graduate transfer from Ball State, threw for a staggering 507 yards in his first Illini start.

Altmyer, a former four-star recruit, left Ole Miss for Champaign to run the Illini offense for three seasons and, in this first one, often enough has been as good as advertised. Paddock, a former two-star recruit who threw 14 interceptions in his only season as a starter in the MAC, doesn’t have nearly as many physical tools in his bag.

But did we mention 507? And has Paddock ever won over a talented group of Illini receivers.

“The swagger and confidence he plays with is unmatched,” said Isaiah Williams, who had nine catches for 200 yards and reeled in the overtime walk-off touchdown Saturday.

What does Bielema do now? Go with the hot hand? Or is Altmyer’s dual-threat presence needed against Iowa, whose defense is roughly a million times more dangerous than Indiana’s?

“Obviously, we’ll discuss it as a staff,” Bielema said, “but John’s done a lot of really good things in putting himself in this position. And the good news is you’ve got two quarterbacks.”

But there’s no such thing as two in mid-November. If you don’t have a QB1 you’re all-in on, you’ve got problems. …

David Braun did that thing again.

Northwestern’s interim coach won another game the rest of us assumed the Wildcats would lose.

After a 24-10 win at Wisconsin, the Wildcats are 5-5 and have two cracks — at home against Purdue and at Illinois — at earning a bowl invite. From 4-20 the previous two seasons under Pat Fitzgerald to this? Mighty impressive.

Somebody needs to remind Braun that he was an assistant in the FCS ranks until January and never had been a head coach at any level. Better yet, maybe Northwestern should just lift that “interim” tag. …

The Big Ten came down hard on Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh last week, suspending him amid a sign-stealing scandal, but it only seemed to galvanize the Wolverines, who went full “Braveheart” in a 24-15 win at Penn State.

Facing the No. 1 rushing defense in the country, what did they do? Run the damn ball every play but one in the second half. After it was over, acting head coach Sherrone Moore bawled into the FOX camera and swore a blue streak, including this ode to Harbaugh, who surely was watching: “I love the [expletive] out of you, man!” And the image of running back Blake Corum at the postgame press conference with dried blood caked all over his face was pure Hollywood. …

Within minutes of each other, Washington and Florida State got interceptions from dudes in No. 7 jerseys to save their unbeaten seasons. The next College Football Playoff rankings will be fascinating.

No. 1 Ohio State beat lowly Michigan State 38-3. Well done, right? But not as impactful as No. 3 Michigan’s win or No. 2 Georgia’s, a 52-17 throttling of No. 9 Ole Miss. So what happens Tuesday night? The guess here is Georgia clocks in at No. 1, Michigan at No. 2 and Ohio State at No. 3. Guess that’s what the Buckeyes get for remaining perfect.

Florida State and Washington probably will remain at 4 and 5, though it’s possible their spots in the order will be flipped. Either way, I’m still expecting Oregon — which lost 36-33 at Washington in October — to beat the Huskies in a Pac-12 title game rematch. …

My Heisman five if I were voting today: 1. Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr., 2. Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. 3. LSU QB Jayden Daniels, 4. Oregon QB Bo Nix, 5. Florida State QB Jordan Travis.

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