Illini Football Slated To Host Ohio State For Thursday Night Season Opener On Sept. 3

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- If we have a college football season this fall, Illinois is scheduled to open on a Thursday night against the Big Ten Conference favorite. 

Illinois will host Ohio State on Sept. 3 in a Thursday night season opener at Memorial Stadium. 

In a league-only schedule for the 2020 slate that the Big Ten Conference announced last month and officially released Wednesday afternoon, Illinois fans got an opportunity to look at a list of potential opponents for a football season still in some peril due to the current coronavirus pandemic.

“While the conference remains hopeful for a September 2020 start in all fall sports, issuing a schedule does not guarantee that competition will occur,” the Big Ten Conference said in a media statement. “While our strategy is to continue planning for all fall sports, if the virus continues to spread among our students despite our many preventive measures, including testing and quarantine protocols, we are also prepared to delay or cancel competition pursuant to local and state public health orders or the recommendation of our medical experts.”

A letter sent to all 14 school’s athletics directors also continues the Big Ten’s refrain that circumstances throughout the country may not be medically safe to have fall sports, including football, due to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic.

“If we determine as a Conference that it is not prudent to compete in the fall of 2020, we will not do so, much like our decision in March 2020 to cancel the Men’s Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis,” the letter reads. “Our final decision will be rooted in guidance from medical experts and in consultation with institutional leadership, student-athletes, coaches and appropriate federal, state, and local authorities.”

As expected, the nine original 2020 Big Ten opponents for the Illini remained in place (at Rutgers, at Nebraska, vs. Purdue, vs. Minnesota, at Wisconsin, vs. Iowa, at Indiana, vs. Ohio State, at Northwestern) but in a different order and Illinois picked up a home game against Eastern Division powerhouse Penn State as the season finale to complete the 10-game schedule.

The league release says the Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis is tentatively set for Dec. 5.



Sept. 3 vs. Ohio State

Sept. 12 at Nebraska

Sept. 19 at Indiana

Sept. 26 vs. Purdue

Oct. 3 - BYE

Oct. 10 vs. Iowa 

Oct. 17 at Northwestern

Oct. 24 at Wisconsin

Oct. 31 vs. MINNESOTA

Nov. 7 at Rutgers

Nov. 14 - BYE

Nov. 21 vs. Penn State

Nov. 28 - BYE

Dec. 5 - Big Ten Championship Game, Indianapolis, Ind.


According to Illinois athletics spokesperson Kent Brown, Illinois training camp is tentatively set to begin tomorrow but any further schedule news is obviously tenuous due to several Big Ten schools being forced to pause offseason voluntary workouts due to COVID-19 positive tests and outbreaks including the recent news Monday that Northwestern halted workouts after one positive test in its program.

The University of Illinois athletics department released its positive cases on Monday afternoon since athletes returned to the Champaign-Urbana campus for voluntary workouts.

As of July 30, Illinois had 164 student-athletes who had returned to campus to participate in voluntary team activities.

The media release further emphasized the COVID-19 protocols put in place by school officials that included all athletes being tested at least weekly, with a total of more than 1,200 tests already being administered. According to the release, the testing protocol has reportedly returned 23 positive results with all but three of those cases with the remaining athletes having already recovered and returned to the activity of the workouts. According to Brown in the release, “only four of the positive tests were remotely symptomatic” and no Illinois athlete has required a hospitalization after testing positive for COVID-19.

The Big Ten Conference, Pac-12 Conference and Southeastern Conference have already announced that they will play conference-only football schedules in 2020. With today’s schedule release by the Big Ten, the SEC is now left to announce its league-only schedule.