North Carolina added to UI football schedule

Mike Thomas stated earlier this month future Illinois football nonconference games would feature teams from power conferences.

North Carolina fits the bill the Illinois athletic director is looking for.

Illinois announced on Thursday morning a two-year series with the Tar Heels for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Illinois will play at North Carolina on Sept. 19, 2015 before the Tar Heels make the trip to Champaign-Urbana for a game at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 10, 2016.

"We have worked very hard at securing future football opponents and we're happy to be able to include a peer institution in North Carolina," Thomas said. "We want to keep an opponent from one of the five major conferences on the schedule and maintain seven home games each season, even with the challenges posed when the Big Ten moves to nine conference games. This series accomplishes that goal."

Illinois has played North Carolina twice in program history, with the Tar Heels winning 27-0 in 1971 in Champaign and beating the Illini 34-14 in Chapel Hill, N.C., during the 1987 season.

North Carolina isn't the only new addition to future Illinois football schedules, which are now set through the 2017 season. Illinois will open the 2016 season on Sept. 3 at home against Murray State and will also host Western Michigan on Sept. 17, meaning Illinois will open that season with three straight games at Memorial Stadium. The Western Michigan game was originally scheduled as a road game for Illinois.

Illinois has never played Murray State, an FCS program, and is familiar with Western Michigan, having played the Broncos four times this century.

Illinois also finalized its season-opening opponent for the 2017 season. Ball State will head to Memorial Stadium for a Sept. 2 game. The two schools have played once before, with the Illini beating the Cardinals 28-17 in 2007 in Champaign.

Here's a look at the future Illinois schedules through the 2017 season.

2014
Aug. 30 vs. Youngstown State

Sept. 6 vs. Western Kentucky

Sept. 13 at Washington

Sept. 20 vs. Texas State

Sept. 27 at Nebraska

Oct. 4 vs. Purdue

Oct. 11 at Wisconsin

Oct. 25 vs. Minnesota

Nov. 1 at Ohio State

Nov. 15 vs. Iowa

Nov. 22 vs. Penn State

Nov. 29 at Northwestern

2015
Sept. 5 vs. Kent State

Sept. 12 vs. Western Illinois

Sept. 19 at North Carolina

Sept. 26 vs. Middle Tennessee

Oct. 3 vs. Nebraska

Oct. 10 at Iowa

Oct. 24 vs. Wisconsin

Oct. 31 at Penn State

Nov. 7 at Purdue

Nov. 14 vs. Ohio State

Nov. 21 at Minnesota

Nov. 28 vs. Northwestern2

2016
Sept. 3 vs. Murray State

Sept. 10 vs. North Carolina

Sept. 17 vs. Western Michigan

Oct. 1 at Nebraska

Oct. 8 vs. Purdue

Oct. 15 at Rutgers

Oct. 22 at Michigan

Oct. 29 vs. Minnesota

Nov. 5 vs. Michigan State

Nov. 12 at Wisconsin

Nov. 19 vs. Iowa

Nov. 26 at Northwestern

2017
Sept. 2 vs. Ball State

Sept. 9 at South Florida

Sept. 16 vs. Western Kentucky

Sept. 30 vs. Nebraska

Oct. 7 at Iowa

Oct. 14 vs. Rutgers

Oct. 21 at Minnesota

Oct. 28 vs. Wisconsin

Nov. 4 at Purdue

Nov. 11 vs. Indiana

Nov. 18 at Ohio State

Nov. 25 vs. Northwestern

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