Lovie Smith says opening season with Ohio State a 'great opportunity' for Illinois
There’s really no other way to state it, Illinois got a pretty rough draw in terms of its season opener. The B1G have the Illini beginning the season at home, but will start the 2020 campaign against No. 2 Ohio State on Thursday, Sept. 3.
Illinois went from hosting in-state foe and FCS program Illinois State to welcoming one of the national championship favorites to Memorial Stadium. While the Buckeyes were already on the schedule, it’s going to be a huge test for Lovie Smith and Co. right out of the gate.
But Smith isn’t looking at Illinois’ season opener as a tough draw. Instead, he views it as an opportunity for his program to show the country that it’s on the rise.
“[It’s] a great opportunity for a program like ours,” Smith said, according to Jeremy Werner of Illini Inquirer. “We’ve knocked off some big teams in Memorial Stadium. We look forward to the opportunity.”
Last season, Illinois shocked the world by upsetting No. 6 Wisconsin 24-23 at Memorial Stadium, essentially ending the Badgers’ College Football Playoff hopes. That victory helped the Illini get to 6-6 on the season, and earn a bowl bid for the first time under Smith.
Obviously, Ohio State is a different animal.
The Buckeyes finished last season with a 13-1 record, defeating every opponent in the regular season by double digits. They also owned one of the top-ranked offenses and defenses last year and are an early favorite to win the College Football Playoff this year.
At the very least, Illinois gets Ohio State at home. That gives the Illini a slightly better opportunity to pull off the upset this year. But it’s still a tall task for the first week of the season.