First read

Brett Dawson reports what major publications say about the Illini.

First go-around

A look at five players new to the UI lineup:

Mezydlo: For Kittner, it's wait and see

CHICAGO – He walked off Soldier Field on Thursday night as casual and confident as he did many times before at Memorial Stadium.

Kurt Kittner doesn't show a lot of emotion. He doesn't say many words. In fact, it's hard to tell if Kittner is ready to hit the town in celebration or pound a locker in frustration.

A guide to game days at Memorial Stadium

The coaching staff is new. A stadium approaching its 82rd birthday has a major face-lift in its future. The record could dearly use a new look, too.

As Ron Zook's first Illini football team prepares for its debut, change is definitely in the air at Memorial Stadium.

Competition drives squad

CHAMPAIGN – They went into the opening weekend with a fresh No. 13 ranking and high hopes of kicking off the season in style before their date with No. 17 Nebraska.

But the Illinois women's soccer team came home from Milwaukee with an 0-1-1 record, no goals and plenty of questions. Coach Janet Rayfield started getting answers in practice this week, and she thinks today's 7 p.m. match with Nebraska – the highest-profile home match of the season – actually will help ease the pressure on the Illini.

Tate: Opener hardly a must win

Fans and the media have placed great emphasis on Illinois' football opener against Rutgers, many casting Saturday's game into the must-win category.

Ron Zook would like to reject that kind of unnecessary pressure, saying: "Saturday is important, but one game does not a season make." The head coach added:

No decision yet on Flakes

CHAMPAIGN – Illinois coach Ron Zook said Thursday no final decision has been made on the status of quarterback Kisan Flakes.

Flakes pleaded guilty Thursday to unlawful possession with intent to deliver cannabis, a felony. He was given first offender probation, which means he will have no record of the conviction if he has no other law trouble in the next 30 months. Flakes also was ordered to perform community service, fined and ordered to get a substance-abuse evaluation.

Who's that Illini?

In 1991, I earned first team All-Big Ten honors in women's gymnastics. I tied for the conference championship in uneven bars that season, my best at Illinois. I was also named a scholastic All-American while earning Academic All-Big Ten honors three times.

First years

A lok at how Ron Zook's 10 modern-era predecessors fared in their UI debuts:

The inside scoop

Each week during the season, experts from around the Big Ten will provide input on the teams they cover. This week's news and notes: