What’s happening outside Champaign-Urbana:
1. Football schedules always are planned well in advance. Case in point: Michigan and Virginia Tech will square off in two straight seasons. In 2020 and 2021. The two schools have met once, in the 2012 Sugar Bowl. Just think, too, that the recruiting classes of 2020 and 2021 are currently in fifth grade and fourth grade, respectively. Another Big Ten team, Penn State, will renew an old rivalry with Pittsburgh after the series ended in 2000. They will meet four times between the 2016-19 seasons, but Pittsburgh athletic director Steve Pederson said he would be fine signing a 30-year deal with the Nittany Lions. We’ll see if that happens.
2. So the history Illinois has with Hawaii isn’t long. At all. A 27-17 Hawaii victory against Illinois in the 1992 Holiday Bowl is the only such meeting between the two schools. While no future games are set to take place between the two schools in Honolulu (too bad), Hawaii reverted partially to its past this week. The school will add Rainbow back into its football team’s nickname after the nickname Rainbow Warriors was dropped in 2000 to simply Warriors. Hawaii won’t bring back the fashion staples of its light green jerseys and white helmets etched with a rainbow that it wore against Illinois, but at least its old nickname is back.
3. Indianapolis again will serve as host of the Big Ten championship game Dec. 7. It’s the third straight year Lucas Oil Stadium will have the game, and Indy will host until two more after that. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said he’s in favor of possibly moving the game to Detroit’s Ford Field after its contract with Indianapolis is up. It looks like the Big Ten athletic directors want to keep the game at an indoor venue, which likely will eliminate Soldier Field from the discussion but stay tuned.
The big 10
This week’s list: best Big Ten nonconference games in 2013
1. Notre Dame at Michigan
Expect plenty of chicken talk leading up to the Sept. 7 meeting at the Big House after Brady Hoke’s comments this week about the Irish backing out of the series once the 2014 game is played. And Manti Te’o mentions.
2. Michigan State at Notre Dame
Notre Dame still has plans to play the Spartans after 2014. We’re glad. It’s one of the best September games on the schedule, and the Sept. 21 date in South Bend shouldn’t disappoint.
3. UCLA at Nebraska
Jim Mora Jr. probably won’t get a table at any steakhouse in Lincoln the weekend of Sept. 14. Not after his Bruins ruined Nebraska’s national title hopes with a 36-30 win last season at the Rose Bowl in the Cornhuskers’ second game.
4. Penn State vs. Syracuse
Nittany Lions and the Orange kick off another saga in the longtime rivalry (this is the 71st meeting between the schools). The season opener for both teams will take place Aug. 31 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
5. San Diego State at Ohio State
A week after starting the season at home against Eastern Illinois, Aztecs — who have gone to three straight bowl games — venture to Columbus to try to stop Urban Meyer’s unbeaten run (assuming Buckeyes can get past Buffalo in opener).
6. BYU at Wisconsin
Nothing better than to spice up the latter part of the schedule — Cougars will visit Madison on Nov. 9 — with a visit from one of college football’s most consistent programs out West.
7. Iowa at Iowa State
I. Am. So. Proud. To be your football coach. If host Cyclones win the Cy-Hawk trophy for third straight year Sept. 14 in Ames, expect coach Paul Rhoads to utter words that have become his calling card. Aside from beating the Hawkeyes.
8. Northwestern at California
Expect plenty of points in Sonny Dykes’ debut with the Golden Bears. Remember Louisiana Tech last year, Illinois fans? Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats will try to stop high-volume offense Aug. 31 out in Berkeley during rematch of 1949 Rose Bowl game.
9. Northern Illinois at Purdue
Last time Huskies ventured to Ross-Ade Stadium, the school from DeKalb came home with a 28-21 upset during the 2009 season. This is the first meeting since that surprise victory for the Huskies, who would ruin the Boilermakers’ homecoming with a victory this season.
10. Illinois vs. Washington
Having the game at Soldier Field in Chicago adds a layer of intrigue. Steve Sarkisian’s Huskies are definitely no Charleston Southern (Tim Beckman’s Week 3 opponent last year). A win against Washington, which has played in three straight bowl games, would easily qualify as Beckman’s biggest with the Illini.
3 questions for ... former Illini great J Leman
Aside from broadcasting with BTN, what are you up to?
Most of my time is surrounded by my own business. I help people with health, and I live in the Chicago area. I kind of had a health crisis in my life after football with some concussions and wasn’t getting better. I looked for some alternative solutions, and it kind of led me into nutritional supplements and helping people with health. That’s really aided me in my recovery. It’s been a great opportunity to run my own business and run it with other like-minded people.
What are you eager to find out about the 2013 team?
I think everyone is curious to see what Bill Cubit’s offense looks like. He’s highly experienced and has had success wherever he went, so I think we’re anxious to see what that looks like. I’m anxious to also see how the defense has progressed in the second year of the system. They still have a lot of injuries at key positions. The base of this defense has been the (defensive) line and the secondary for the last two or three years. Now it seems to me that we’ve got the most depth at linebacker. I think it’s going to shift. I want to see how they replace those D-linemen and corners.
Tim Beckman’s first year was a struggle. What do you foresee the future looking like?
There is a lot of youth out there. I remember 2005 when I was a young player and we were struggling to rebuild, there was a lot of youth out there, too. A lot of these players are going to have to play against juniors and seniors that are more developed and stronger and faster. That will pay dividends down the road in two to three years. I think Coach Beckman has made a tremendous effort and reached out to players trying to get them back. He’s brought a lot of guys back on staff. He wants this to be a family atmosphere, and he’s doing everything he can to get it like that.