Staff writer Bob Asmussen spent Monday talking to the Illinois players and coaches. Here's what he learned:
BACK IN TOWN
The last time Lou Tepper watched an Illinois football game at Memorial Stadium was in 1996. Until Saturday.
The former Illini head coach returned to Champaign-Urbana with his family for the Illinois-Ohio State game. While everyone else went home, Tepper stayed for practice Monday and today.
"Hopefully, next year, I won't have an opportunity to come back," Tepper said.
Tepper served as Division II Indiana (Pa.) head coach until after the 2010 season. He wants to return to coaching, preferably in Division I. So, if he wanted to return to watch his old school, now was the time.
"I'm touring some colleges in the area," Tepper said.
Tepper went 25-31-2 in five seasons at Illinois and was the last to lead the school to consecutive bowl games. Before taking over as head coach, Tepper served as John Mackovic's defensive coordinator for four seasons.
"I spent eight wonderful years out of nine," Tepper said. "I'm not going to let the ninth year blemish the great times that we had. My kids, this is home for them."
Illinois coach Ron Zook was happy to have Tepper back on campus.
"He's always welcome," Zook said. "He's forgotten more football than a lot of people know."
Illinois tailback Jason Ford, who suffered a strained shoulder against Ohio State, practiced Monday and will be ready for Saturday's game at Purdue.
Illini receiver Darius Millines, who has missed the last three games with a foot injury, was running at practice.
"We'll get him back into slowly, but I think he'll be fine," Zook said.
WELL, WE'RE WAITING
The time for the Illinois-Penn State game Oct. 29 won't be set until Sunday. ABC exercised its right to a six-day hold on both Illinois-Penn State and Nebraska-Michigan State. One game will end up with a 2:30 p.m. kickoff on ABC and other will be at 11 a.m. on either ESPN or ESPN2.
The Wisconsin-Ohio State game on Oct. 29 has already been set for 7 p.m. on either ABC, ESPN or ESPN2. Northwestern-Indiana (BTN) and Michigan-Purdue (ESPN or ESPN2) are playing at 11 a.m. Iowa-Minnesota will kick off at 2:30 p.m. on the BTN.
LINE 'EM UP
Vegas oddsmakers make Illinois a 4.5-point favorite against Purdue. Illinois was a lesser favorite (3.5 points) at home against Ohio State.
In other Big Ten games, Iowa is a 23.5-point pick against Indiana, Nebraska is a 24.5-point choice at Minnesota, Penn State is a 4-point favorite at Northwestern and Wisconsin is an 8.5-point choice at Michigan State. Michigan and Ohio State have the weekend off.