Top 50 teams in 2017: No. 37, Baylor

Best of ... Teams

No. 37: Baylor

Coach: Matt Rhule

2016 record: 7-6

Projected 2017 record: 8-4

Circle the date: Sept. 23 vs. Oklahoma

Bowl trip: Liberty

Top 50 most important Illini: No. 37, Adam Solomon

Best of ... Illini

No. 37: Adam Solomon, OL

Illini lift for good cause

Illinois got a break from its typical summer schedule Friday morning with its sixth annual Lift for Life fundraiser for rare diseases. Staff writer SCOTT RICHEY was at Memorial Stadium to get an update on the Illini's offseason — and what's next for Lovie Smith's program:

Center of attention

Illinois partnering with NHL

CHICAGO — Illinois will partner with the NHL and NHLPA to evaluate the possible addition of hockey as a varsity sport. The NHL and NHLPA will fund feasibility studies at five universities across the country — Illinois being the first — exploring the potential of adding men's and women's hockey programs.

Lift for Life a success again

Illinois football held its annual Lift for Life charity fundraiser Friday morning at Memorial Stadium and raised more than $30,000. Hear from event organizer and Illini offensive lineman Nick Allegretti and quarterback Chayce Crouch, a member of the winning team.

Sitting down with Josh Whitman

Josh Whitman has stayed busy in his first 15 months on the job as the Illinois athletic director. From firing and hiring coaches, to developing renovation plans for Memorial Stadium and much more, the 38-year-old Whitman doesn't lack for things to do. He held court with the media earlier this week on the UI campus, and The News-Gazette's Marcus Jackson was there.

Top 50 teams in 2017: No. 38, South Carolina

Best of ... Teams

No. 38: South Carolina

Coach: Will Muschamp

2016 record: 6-7

Projected 2017 record: 8-4

Circle the date: Nov. 4 at Georgia

Bowl trip: Music City

Top 50 most important Illini: No. 38, Ahmari Hayes

Best of ... Illini

No. 38: Ahmari Hayes, DB

UI AD participating in hockey press conference

CHICAGO — Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman will be one of six people to appear 4 p.m. Friday in a press conference in support of college hockey at the United Center before the 2017 NHL Draft begins at 6 p.m.

A "special announcement" will be made at that time, but no further details were provided for the event hosted by the NHL and NHLPA.

Top 50 teams in 2017: No. 39, Arkansas

Our countdown continues ...

No. 39: Arkansas

Coach: Bret Bielema

2016 record: 7-6

Projected 2017 record: 8-4

Circle the date: Oct. 14 at Alabama

Bowl trip: TaxSlayer