Illinois Football set to play Saturday

The game can be seen on (ESPN2) Saturday, along with the pregame radio show beginning at 10:30 a.m. The Illini Sports Network will be calling the action Brian Barnhart (play-by-play), Jim Grabowski (color analyst) and Steve Kelly (halftime and postgame).

ESPN2 will televise Saturday's game to a national audience. Dave Sims (play-by-play), John Congemi (color analyst) and Jeannine Edwards (sideline) call the action.

Illinois opens its 116th season of varsity football against Rutgers. The Illini have compiled an all-time record of 72-38-5 in season openers and a 49-27-4 record when opening the season a home … Illinois is 77-33-5 all-time in home openers and has won its last seven home openers.

This weekend's captains are CB James Cooper, RB E.B. Halsey, C Matt Maddox and DT Ryan Matha.

The Illinois ticket office estimates a crowd of 43-45,000 in attendance for this weekend's season opener against Rutgers.

Illini junior running back E.B. Halsey has rushed for 986 yards over his first two seasons. With 14 yards this weekend, Halsey could become the 32nd back in school history to record over 1,000 career rushing yards. Teammate Pierre Thomas topped the 1,000 mark last season when he rushed for 131 yards in the season finale at Northwestern.

Two Illinois players have earned preseason award hype in Doak Walker candidate Pierre Thomas and 2004 Ray Guy semifinalist Steve Weatherford. Thomas led the team in rushing last season with 893 yards, which ranked fifth in the conference. He led the Big Ten in all-purpose yards, racking up over 1,600 yards in rushing, receiving and kickoff returns. Weatherford already holds the school record for career and single-season punting average. Last season, the Big Ten coaches voted him first-team All-Big Ten and he ranked fourth nationally.

Heading into his third season returning kicks, junior Pierre Thomas is looking to break the school record for kickoff return yardage. Last season he averaged 27.1 yards per return, which ranked 10th in the NCAA. With 811 career yards, Thomas needs just 572 this season to set the school mark.

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