Is Illinois going to win a Big Ten game this season?
The best remaining chance to avoid a winless conference slate came and went Saturday, the Fighting Illini losers against the visiting Indiana Hoosiers by a 24-14 score in Champaign.
Lovie Smith won just two league games last season, his first as the Illinois head football coach. And with two ranked teams the only foes left on this year’s schedule, it looks like he’ll be moving backward in Year 2.
The Illini were without the services of young quarterback Cam Thomas on Saturday, meaning Jeff George Jr. was pressed into full-time quarterbacking duties. He threw a pair of late interceptions in addition to two second-half touchdown passes. But Illinois was without a point at halftime, down two touchdowns after punting on all seven of its first-half possessions.
The Illini got within three points early in the fourth quarter, but after Indiana scored a touchdown to go up by 10 with six minutes remaining, Illinois turned the ball over there straight times, George fumbling and then throwing his two picks in a mad dash to make up that late deficit.
Illinois failed to gain 300 yards of offense and had a paltry 33 rushing yards.
And so now Smith’s team faces the very real possibility of an 0-9 conference record with Ohio State and Northwestern all that’s left on the schedule. The Buckeyes were smoked at Iowa last weekend but pulverized Michigan State on Saturday by a 48-3 score, making Urban Meyer’s squad a terrifying matchup once more. Meanwhile, the Wildcats entered the College Football Playoff rankings earlier this week and entered Saturday’s game against Purdue with three straight overtime victories.
Illinois has dropped eight straight games after starting the season with back-to-back non-conference wins over Ball State and Western Kentucky. The Illini head into the final two games of the season with a 2-8 overall record and an 0-7 mark in Big Ten play.
The Big Ten has officially postponed all fall sports, including football, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The conference announced the decision in a statement on Tuesday, but left the door open for the fall sports to be played next spring.
“Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty and staff,” said Morton Schapiro, Chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and Northwestern University President.
“The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. “As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.
“We know how significant the student-athlete experience can be in shaping the future of the talented young women and men who compete in the Big Ten Conference. Although that knowledge made this a painstaking decision, it did not make it difficult. While I know our decision today will be disappointing in many ways for our thousands of student-athletes and their families, I am heartened and inspired by their resilience, their insightful and discerning thoughts, and their participation through our conversations to this point. Everyone associated with the Big Ten Conference and its member institutions is committed to getting everyone back to competition as soon as it is safe to do so.”
In addition to football, cross country, field hockey, soccer and women’s volleyball seasons were postponed.
“The Big Ten Conference will continue to evaluate a number of options regarding these sports, including the possibility of competition in the spring,” the conference said in the statement. “Decisions regarding winter and spring sports will also continue to be evaluated.”
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There may be no college football for Big Ten schools this fall.
According to several reports, the Big Ten school presidents voted 12-2 on Sunday to not play football this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Dan Patrick, the two schools in favor of playing were Iowa and Nebraska. There are conflicting reports on whether the season will be postponed or canceled, but Dan Patrick says the official news will be released tomorrow.
On his show, Patrick said he followed up with his source, who said, “Three Big Ten teams that I’ve spoken with said, ‘It’s done.’”
In response, more reports have come out saying the SEC has gathered for a previously unscheduled meeting on Monday morning.
According to Patrick’s report, the SEC is trying to delay and see if either the ACC or Big 12 will join them in playing this fall.
The MAC conference decided to cancel it’s football season on Aug. 8.
In addition, on Aug. 5 a coalition of Big Ten players published a Players’ Tribune article asking for a comprehensive plan to keep them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic if the league was to go forward with the season.
RELATED: Northwestern Wildcats pause football workouts after positive COVID-19 test
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