ESPN will broadcast what could be one of the best games of the 2008 college football season. Illinois and Missouri battle it out on the basketball court each year around Christmas time, but last year the two schools took to the gridiron with Missouri beating the Illini 40-34.
Last season Illinois had one of the best turnarounds in all of college football. The Illini were expected to improve in 2007 and they easily exceeded expectations. Now they enter this game ranked in the Top 20. "It's a big game for both programs," Illinois Head Coach Ron Zook stated. "It's going to show where we are at."
Regardless of the outcome of the first game, Illinois should know what they're getting in Missouri. "If you win or lose there's a lot of football to go," Zook acknowledged. "One game doesn't make or break your season."
During yesterday's press conference it was obvious all the players were excited to finally play a game. "How can you not get excited about college football?" starting quarterback Juice Williams said. "It's good for Illini Nation. We've prepared to get better and show the world what we can do. I've worked hard to improve my passing. I did some individual training with wide receivers. I'm way more confident now."
Illinois still has to take on other traditional powers in Big Ten this year, with road games at Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin. The Illini have compiled an all-time record of 74-39-5 in season openers. They are 23-8-1 when opening the season on the road and 0-4 in neutral-site season openers.