In-state FCS foe looks to upset Illini


In-state FCS foe looks to upset Illini

Beat writer Scott Richey with a quick primer on what to expect before tonight's kickoff against the Leathernecks at Memorial Stadium:


The announced attendance for last week's Illinois season opener was just more than 31,000. That group — likely a bit smaller in terms of actual fans in the Memorial Stadium stands — did include about a three-quarter-full Block I section. Free student tickets and the fact said students get an extra free ticket to bring a friend might see the north end fill completely against Western Illinois.


Illinois has won just six Big Ten titles in the last 75 years. More than a dozen members of the 1953 Big Ten champion team that went 7-1-1 played on the Illini's last national championship team in 1951. The 65th anniversary of the 1953 team will be recognized tonight, with former Illini like Pete Palmer, Jan Smid and Cliff Waldbeser, among several others, expected to be in attendance.


Western Illinois will be thinking upset against Illinois. That would be a first. The Illini are a perfect 16-0 all time against FCS (formerly Division I-AA) opponents with an average margin of victory of nearly 30 points per game. Southern Illinois has come the closest to pulling the upset twice, as Illinois beat the Salukis by just three points in 1985 and eight points in 2013.


Lovie Smith's reliance on his recruits at Illinois was apparent in Week 1. Just eight of the 22 starters against Kent State were not part of the Illini's 2017 and 2018 recruiting classes. Four true freshmen making their Illinois debuts against the Golden Flashes — plus three true freshmen that started the 2017 opener — equals the total from the previous 36 years combined. Expect to see more true freshmen tonight.