While a report earlier this week outlined non-conference additions to Illinois' future football schedules, the school made the additions official with a Wednesday announcement.
The Illini announced future games against eight different "Group of 5" teams, teams that do not play in any of the four Power 5 conference outside the Big Ten, leaving the additions short on excitement but giving Illinois a better chance at wins in those games.
The Illini will take on Akron and Eastern Michigan in 2019, Florida Atlantic and Bowling Green in 2020, UTSA and Charlotte in 2021 and Wyoming and Central Michigan in 2022.
Those teams had a combined record of 36-64 last season.
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With the Big Ten moving to a nine-game conference slate beginning this year, there will only be slots available for three non-conference games each season. The Illini previously announced future non-conference matchups against South Florida (2017 and 2018), Connecticut (2019 and 2020), Virginia (2021 and 2022), Kansas (2023 and 2024) and Duke (2025 and 2026). Only Virginia, Kansas and Duke are members of Power 5 conferences.
As pointed out earlier this week, the shortage of Power 5 opponents on Illinois' future schedules makes its schedules look weak in comparison to other members of the Big Ten. No other Big Ten team faces fewer Power 5 teams in non-conference play over the next seven seasons than the Illini, who play just three. Some teams are set to play as many as nine non-conference games against Power 5 teams over the next seven seasons. And it's not just title contenders and perennial powers like Michigan and Ohio State. Purdue, Maryland and Rutgers all have more exciting future schedules than Illinois.
It's unlikely a soft schedule would hurt Illinois, which doesn't figure to be competing for a national championship anytime soon. But even when compared to other struggling programs in the Big Ten, the Illini are scheduling much worse.
Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.
Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football.
"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.
"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.
"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline."
Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."
"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.
"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."
Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.
Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.
Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.
As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.
Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.
The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.