By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Football Writer/ Analyst
February 9, 2022
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Bret Bielema’s Illinois football program will be under the lights on a Friday night for a second consecutive season.
The Big Ten Conference announced Wednesday afternoon that the league-opening game for both Illinois and Indiana in the second weekend of the 2022 season has been moved to Friday night on Sept. 2.
The league announced new conference schedules for the 2022 season last month that included a swap of Penn State to Indiana for the Illini of one of its crossover games against a school in the Eastern Division.
This game will be the Illini’s first road trip to Bloomington since 2013 and represents a change for Illinois as they were originally supposed to open Big Ten play with Bielema’s first return trip to Wisconsin since taking over the Illini program. The Illinois-Wisconsin game in Madison is currently slated for Oct. 1.
Indiana is coming off a highly disappointing 2021 campaign that began with the Hoosiers ranked No. 17 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll but saw them finish 2-10 overall and winless in league play.
Illinois played on a Friday night last season in a dramatic loss to Maryland where the Terrapins scored 10 points in the final two minutes and 13 seconds to escape with a 20-17 decision on a walk-off, 32-yard field goal by Joseph Petrino.
Illinois is currently 0-4 in conference games played on a Friday night since the Big Ten implemented this schedule change in accordance with the league’s new television contract with Fox Sports in 2017. Along with the loss to Maryland last season, Illinois opened the 2020 season on Oct. 23 (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) with a 45-7 loss at Wisconsin, lost 63-24 at home to Penn State in 2018 and lost 28-6 at home to Nebraska in 2017.
Despite Illinois’ bad fortune in Friday night contests, Illini second-year head coach Bret Bielema has always been in favor of his program grabbing a bit of the national spotlight by having a night of the week all to themselves. Bielema held his first spring football game last April on a Friday night and has always been willing to have the Illini be part of the contingent of conference members in favor of the Big Ten/Fox Friday night experiment.
“We are very excited to be in a national prime time spot for our Maryland game,” Bielema said last May when the schedule change for the Maryland game was announced by the league office. “It is another opportunity to showcase our team, university, campus, and the best fans in college football.”
This Sept. 2 game in Bloomington will be the season opener for Indiana but Illinois will open the 2022 schedule at home with a Aug. 27 game vs. Wyoming. The last time Illinois has won in Bloomington’s Memorial Stadium was a 41-20 victory in 2011 as the Illini rallied from an early 10-0 deficit to earn its sixth consecutive win to start that season.
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