Illini Avoid Ohio State & Michigan in 2023 Big Ten Conference Schedule

Illinois slated to open Big Ten Conference play in 2023 with a home game against Penn State.

By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Football Writer/Analyst

October 26, 2022

(Cover photo courtesy Ron Johnson/USA Today Sports)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Lovie Smith and Bret Bielema finally have something tangible in common.

In Smith’s third season as the head coach at Illinois in 2018, the Illini opened Big Ten Conference play with a home game against Penn State. In 2023, which will be Bielema’s third year as the head coach in Champaign, Illinois will open its conference slate with a home game against the Nittany Lions.

Any matchup involving Penn State versus Bielema’s Illini is considered historic as the 52-year-old accepted the head coaching job on Dec. 19, 2020 and was on the visiting sidelines as a guest as the Illini lost the 2020 season finale 56-21 in Beaver Stadium. One year later, Bielema upset then-No. 7 Nittany Lions in University Park, Penn., on Oct. 23 in the nine-overtime thriller.

The Big Ten Conference announced the 2023 football schedule for all 14 schools and the Illini will draw home games against Penn State and Indiana while traveling to Maryland as its trio of crossover games from the Eastern Division of the conference.

Currently, Illinois has Toledo slated for a home game on Saturday, Sept. 2 and a road trip to Kansas to open the 2023 slate but sources inside the athletics department have informed IlliniGuys.com that Bielema enjoyment in being involved in an opening week slate of games (similarly to the home games against Nebraska in 2021 and Wyoming in 2022) - and receiving an additional bye week that comes with that - is still on the table for the following season.

The Big Ten opener against Penn State will be the third trip to Champaign for Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin as he lost his Memorial Stadium in 2014 (Illinois 16-14) and crushed Smith’s Illini in 2018 (63-24).

Illinois will be slated to finish non-conference play with a Sept. 23 game against Florida Atlantic, the first matchup ever between the two schools.

The Illini has its first Big Ten road game at Purdue on Sept. 30 and then returns home to host Nebraska on Oct. 7. Illinois’ second ever trip to College Park, Maryland is on the docket for Oct. 14. In 2018, Illinois lost 63-33 to Maryland just four days before Terrapins head coach D.J. Durkin was officially fired following the conclusion of the institutional investigation of the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair during a spring football practice.

Illinois will host Wisconsin on Oct. 21 before an open date is scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 28. Following the open date, Illinois’ month of November will be split between home games against Indiana (Nov. 11) and Northwestern (Nov. 25) and a pair of road games at Minnesota (Nov. 4) and at Iowa (Nov. 18).

The Hoosiers will be making its first trip to Champaign since 2017 when they defeated the Illini 24-14. A of the matchups and home/away decisions from the original 2020 schedule that was shelved in August remained intact for the Illini and additional games will be moved to Fridays or other possible special dates in the near future.

For the second time in Bielema’s tenure at Illinois, his squad will avoid a game against either Ohio State or Michigan and it’ll be just the third time since 1913 that Illinois will not have a regular season game against the last two Big Ten championship programs. In contrast, Purdue and Minnesota will have games against both Michigan and Ohio State while Iowa and Northwestern also avoided a matchup against the traditional Eastern Division powerhouse programs.

 

CURRENT ILLINOIS 2023 SCHEDULE

Sept. 2 — vs. Toledo

Sept. 9 — at Kansas

Sept. 16 — vs. Penn State

Sept. 23  — vs. Florida Atlantic

Sept. 30 — at Purdue

Oct. 7 — vs. Nebraska

Oct. 14 — at Maryland

Oct. 21 — vs. Wisconsin

Oct. 28  — OPEN DATE

Nov. 4 — at Minnesota

Nov. 11 — Indiana

Nov. 18 — at Iowa

Nov. 25 — Northwestern

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