The Big Ten today announced football schedules for 2014. The Illini's nonconference schedule was finalized Wednesday. The lineup:
ILLINOIS 2014 SCHEDULE
Aug. 30 — Youngstown State
Sept. 6 — Western Kentucky
Sept. 13 – at Washington
Sept. 20 – Texas State
Sept. 27 — at Nebraska
Oct. 4 — Purdue
Oct. 11 — at Wisconsin
Oct. 25 — Minnesota
Nov. 1 — at Ohio State
Nov. 15 — Iowa
Nov. 22 — Penn State
Nov. 29 — at Northwestern
We asked beat writer Matt Daniels for his take:
The Illinois football team went 71 years without playing twice at Nebraska.
Now the Illini will get to do so in consecutive seasons. Gulp.
Illinois opens Big Ten play in Lincoln, Neb., on Oct. 5 this season. For the 2014 season, Illinois will venture west for a Sept. 27 game at Nebraska's Memorial Stadium to start league action.
The Big Ten didn't do Illinois any favors when the conference released its 2014 schedule on Thursday.
Illinois will make road trips to Nebraska, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Northwestern. Illinois hasn't won in Lincoln since 1924, Madison and Evanston since 2002 and Columbus since its epic upset of the Buckeyes in 2007.
It's good to get Iowa back on the schedule after a five-year absence (Illinois won its last meeting with the Hawkeyes 27-24 on last-second field goal by Matt Eller at Memorial Stadium in 2008), but not facing Michigan and Michigan State in a season doesn't seem right. Mainly because Illinois has either played both or one of the two schools every season since Michigan State started playing Big Ten football in 1953. Not anymore.
We'll see if the Wolverines or Spartans will land on future schedules after 2014 since 2014 marks the start of the new East-West format the Big Ten will use to split its two, seven-team divisions before nine conference games are factored into the 2016 season.