Big Ten Season starts Saturday

Illinois is beginning its 110th season of Big Ten football this weekend as it plays host to Michigan State, Memorial Stadium 11 a.m. CT Champaign, Ill. ESPN-Plus

Illinois opens Big Ten play at home for the fourth straight season. The Illini are 45-58-6 all-time in Big Ten openers, and 30-29-2 in conference openers in Champaign.

Illinois faces its second ranked opponent of the season this week in No. 22/17 Michigan State, one of six ranked teams on the 2005 Illinois schedule. The last time Illinois defeated a ranked team was its 34-22 win at No. 25 Ohio State in 2001. Last week, the Illini dropped a 20-35 loss at No. 15 California.

Illinois head coach Ron Zook posted six wins over Top-25 foes, during his time at Florida, including a 20-13 victory at No. 10 Florida State. He also put together a string of three straight wins over ranked opponents with victories over No. 6 LSU, No. 11 Arkansas and No. 4 Georgia in 2003.

Illinois sophomore placekicker Jason Reda is 8-of-9 in field goals made this season, which ranks fifth in the NCAA. His 11.0 points per game ranks 24th nationally.

Two Illinois players have been named to preseason award watch lists 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.

Courtesy of U of I SID

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