Big Ten

Illini welcome in 2016 recruiting class


Illini welcome in 2016 recruiting class

The Illini were light on the top talent in the Land of Lincoln, but the newest class of Illinois football players is signed up in Champaign.

Illinois announced its 2016 signing class Wednesday, a class that didn't earn much acclaim from those ranking such things but one that coach Bill Cubit is excited about nonetheless.

Cubit's job certainly wasn't an easy one, needing to attempt to keep commitments from before Tim Beckman was fired and to put together an entire class with a coaching staff in big-time transition. Plus, there was great attention paid to the fact that Cubit is under just a two-year contract, something that impacts recruiting.

"It is what it is, and I think we went out there and sold the good points," Cubit told Mike Hall in an interview on Big Ten Network. "We're an outstanding academic school. We're a program, we think, on the rise. We've got some kids that can come in and play early. But I think the biggest thing was getting our staff to evaluate, communicate. We spent four days from 7 to 7 in that timeframe when we got the new staff, understand what we needed to do, attacking the issues that could come up during recruiting. I brought them up first. I didn't want them to come out and ask. I brought them up. I know the commitment that our university has in us right now, and that's all it takes. College football right now, you better win quickly, we all know that. I didn't think it was that big of an issue at this point."

[MORE BIG TEN: Northwestern announces 2016 recruiting class]

But the Illini have a 25-member Class of 2016, one featuring eight three-star recruits headlining the group.

The highest-ranked recruits in the class came from outside Illinois, with Cubit bringing in a pair of talented defenders from Maryland in defensive end Izon Pulley and linebacker Dele Harding. Harding was ranked by Rivals as the No. 20 player in the Old Line State. Pulley, who decommitted from Miami, was the No. 40 weakside defensive end in the country, per Rivals, and the No. 21 player in Maryland. Two tight ends — Zarrian Holcombe from Texas and Andrew Trainer from Virginia — added to the Illini's out-of-state haul. Trainer was ranked as the No. 24 player in the state of Virginia.

Illinois' top in-state recruit was offensive lineman Kurt Gavin out of Lincoln-Way East. Gavin is ranked as the No. 35 prospect in the state. Right behind him is another Illinois signee, East St. Louis defensive back Stanley Green, the No. 36 player in the state.

The Illini did add one quarterback in this class: three-star recruit Eli Peters out of Jacksonville, Fla. And the last of Illinois' eight three-star recruits was offensive lineman Eddy Fish from Massachusetts.

Obviously with only four members of this year's class from Illinois, Cubit is looking to improve his in-state recruiting efforts moving forward.

"The biggest goal is recruiting the state," he told Hall. "To me, when you recruit the state, it's at least a 14-month process. We started in December, and a lot of times during recruiting (the Class of) 2016 I told the staff I wanted to go by myself, go up into Illinois and just go in there and attack that in December and January. We had a big junior day here, we had over 200 kids come to our junior day. Today we wanted to put the image and visualization of our in-state prospects, thinking of how they can sign with the Illini, having that orange and blue hat on signing day. And had a lot of kids call today. The process has started. We've just got to keep on building relationships. That to me is the major impact that we've got to get done in the next six months."

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Fighting Illini gear right here]

Here is the complete list of Illinois signees in the Class of 2016:

— Tre Nation, RB, Leeds, Ala.
— Tymir Oliver, DL, Sharon Hill, Pa.
— Stanley Green, DB, East St. Louis, Ill.
— M.J. McGriff, WR, Vero Beach, Fla.
— Dele Harding, LB, Elkton, Md.
— Brandon Jones, DL, Columbia, Mo.
— Harvey Clayton, DB, Miami, Fla.
— Kenyon Jackson, DL, Little Rock, Ark.
— Darta Lee, OL, Fresno, Texas
— Dom Thieman, WR, Wilton Manors, Fla.
— Andrew Trainer, TE, Alexandria, Va.
— Eddy Fish, OL, Groton, Mass.
— Zarrian Holcombe, TE, Houston, Texas
— Ayo Shogbonyo, LB, Arlington, Texas
— Griffin Palmer, TE, St. Charles, Mo.
— Kurt Gavin, OL, Mokena, Ill.
— Izon Pulley, DL, Olney, Md.
— Jake Cerny, OL, Traverse City, Mich.
— James McCourt, K, Parkland, Fla.
— Evan Jones, DB, Conyers, Ga.
— Jake Hansen, LB, Tarpon Springs, Fla.
— Christion Abercrombie, LB, Atlanta, Ga.
— Amhari Hayes, DB, Davis, Calif.
— Eli Peters, QB, Jacksonville, Fla.
— Trenard Davis, DB, Boynton Beach, Fla.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings


See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 12 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (10-1)

Still the team with the best resume in the country, no one can compete with OU’s wins over TCU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, the latter two coming away from Norman. Baker Mayfield might not be a choir boy, but he’s the best player in the nation.

2. Miami (10-0)

You might think that being down 28-14 to Virginia in the second half was cringe-worthy, but the Canes made up for things by storming back with 30 unanswered points. Now they finally have to go away from South Florida for the first time since almost losing to North Carolina last month.

3. Alabama (11-0)

Tide gonna roll. But this Cupcake Weekend in the SEC has got to stop. While teams in other conferences are slugging it out against rivals, Bama gets to take a day off against Mercer? It’s just not fair. Also, Bama’s schedule is so soft, there’s no way it deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country.

4. Georgia (10-1)

The Dawgs should wrap an 11-1 regular season this weekend against Georgia Tech. But the SEC title game presents a kind of no-win scenario: undefeated Alabama or Auburn, who throttled Georgia earlier this month.

5. Wisconsin (11-0)

You didn’t need Wisconsin to do what it did to Iowa and Michigan to prove it had one of the best defenses in the country — but that sure didn’t help. Stockpiling national love with those two wins, a win in the Big Ten title game figures to make the Badgers a Playoff lock.

6. Clemson (10-1)

Why’d Kelly Bryant have to go and get hurt for that Syracuse game? The Tigers would be No. 1 and the undisputed best team in the country. Still, though, a win over Miami in the ACC title game ought to get the champs back into the Playoff.

7. Auburn (9-2)

Great job pounding Louisiana-Monroe, Tigers. You shall not escape the wrath over Cupcake Weekend in the SEC. That dumb game aside, Auburn and Alabama will meet in a titanic Iron Bowl this weekend with a trip to the SEC title game on the line — and perhaps a Playoff spot, as well.

8. Ohio State (9-2)

Not that pummeling Illinois is any big deal, but the Buckeyes are still alive in this thing and look like a team capable of making some Playoff noise. First, Ohio State has to win The Game and then the Big Ten title game to knock out undefeated Wisconsin.

9. Notre Dame (9-2)

Out of the Playoff chase thanks to that loss at Miami, Notre Dame squeaked by Navy this past weekend. Hope a New Year’s Six bowl game is enough for the Irish. We know it’s not enough for those ND fans. So maybe join a conference? Just saying.

10. TCU (9-2)

The Frogs can still make their mark on the Playoff race, even if they can’t get in themselves. The Big 12 title game will almost surely be TCU’s attempt at revenge on Oklahoma. Unfortunately, if revenge does come, it will probably cannibalize the conference’s Playoff hopes, too.

11. Penn State (9-2)

Why Penn State gave up 44 points to Nebraska, I do not know. What I do know is that probably no one cared because Penn State is going to go down as the most inconsequential 10-2 team of all-time. Such a bummer considering the preseason expectations for both the team and Saquon Barkley.

12. USC (10-2)

Yeah, I guess there’s still a way for USC to make the Playoff, but it’s hard to imagine that madness unfolding, even in the oft-mad college football. The Trojans get the winner of the Apple Cup in the Pac-12 title game.

13. UCF (10-0)

Finally we get our much-anticipated UCF-USF showdown this weekend. Make it count, Knights. This is probably gonna be Scott Frost’s last regular-season game in Orlando.

14. Washington (9-2)

It’s hard to say who has the edge in the Apple Cup, but certainly the stakes are high, with the winner going off to play USC in the Pac-12 title game. Can either team make the Playoff? Well, probably not, no.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Is this it for Mike Leach on The Palouse? He could be a hot candidate this offseason and leave for perceived greener pastures. Winning the Apple Cup would go a long way toward making that happen.

16. Mississippi State (8-3)

A win in the Egg Bowl means a 9-3 regular season for the Bulldogs with their three losses coming against three top-10 teams.

17. Oklahoma State (8-3)

Poor Okie State has been so good all year and had two losses to the two best teams in its conference, and then it went and lost to K-State for some ridiculous reason. The Mullet deserved better in 2017.

18. Northwestern (8-3)

The Cats are the fourth-best team in the Big Ten, simple as that, with wins over Michigan State and Iowa and conference losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. As commendable an effort as you’ll find in a highly competitive league. Plus, Fitz’s team is on a six-game win streak that could end up extending to eight.

19. Stanford (8-3)

Already with a win over Washington, Stanford could close the regular season with two wins over top-10 teams in its final three games. Also Bryce Love is back in the groove after back-to-back 100-yard games.

20. Memphis (9-1)

The Tigers have lost just one game all season, to the best Group of Five team out there. Heck of a season by Memphis.

21. Michigan State (8-3)

A 17-7 win over Maryland couldn't have been the most exciting way for anyone to spend their weekend. Sparty's had a mighty fine season, though, considering how badly things went in 2016.

22. LSU (8-3)

The SEC has seemingly gotten increasingly better as the year has progressed, with LSU and Mississippi State making for a solid-enough middle tier. But remember when LSU lost to Troy? That wasn’t good.

23. South Florida (9-1)

If not for that loss to Houston, USF’s showdown with UCF this weekend would be for Group of Five supremacy. Even without that, though, this should be a highly entertaining affair.

24. Virginia Tech (8-3)

The Hokies have a chance to salvage their tumble at the close of the season with a win at Virginia. But given how well the Cavs played at Miami this past weekend, a VT win is no sure thing.

25. Iowa State (7-4)

I understand the math and all, but can't the Big 12 just suspend its rules and send Iowa State to the title game? We all want to see the OU-ISU rematch. Why are you preventing us from being happy, Big 12?