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HELLO THERE, STRANGER: ILLINOIS RETURNS TO KINNICK FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 2007

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BAH GAWD... THAT'S ILLINOIS' MUSIC!

Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois and Iowa have been members of the Big Ten Conference since Iowa joined the league in 1899.  They've played each other 70 times over the ensuing 116 years, making the Illini the 6th most frequent opponent on Iowa's schedule over the years (behind Minnesota, Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, and Northwestern).  Meanwhile, Iowa and Nebraska have been members of the Big Ten Conference since Nebraska joined the league in 2011.  Nebraska has made two trips to Iowa City since then (2012, 2014).  In that same span of time, Illinois has made zero trips to Iowa City.

Thanks a lot, Delanybot 9000!

In fact, since Iowa last played Illinois in Kinnick Stadium (October 13, 2007), Iowa has played every other Big Ten opponent (sans newbies Maryland and Rutgers) in Kinnick Stadium at least twice (except Ohio State).  They've played Northwestern in legendary historic Kinnick Stadium five times in that span!  Hell, they've played four other teams from Illinois since then -- Northwestern, Northern Illinois (twice), Eastern Illinois (2010), and Illinois State (last month).  If DePaul had a football team, Iowa probably would have played them here, too.

But not Illinois.

It's been a series of random events that has kept Illinois from visiting Iowa for 8 years (or even playing them for 6 years -- as you may recall, Iowa and Illinois didn't play at all between 2008 and 2014).  Iowa and Illinois first fell off the schedule in 2009 and 2010 as part of the regular schedule rotation in the Big Ten.  Then the Big Ten added Nebraska in 2011 and split into divisions (RIP, Legends and Leaders) and the schedule rotations had to be redone; the divisional alignment placed Iowa and Illinois in separate divisions.  Then the Big Ten added Maryland and Rutgers in 2014 and re-jiggered the divisions and the schedule rotations had to be redone again; this finally put Iowa and Illinois back in the same division, but the schedulemakers weren't able to get an Illinois trip to Iowa City on the books until this season.

This has been far from the biggest gap between games in the Iowa and Illinois series, though -- as The Gazette's Scott Dochterman painstakingly documented a few years ago.  Iowa and Illinois didn't play each other at all between 1953 and 1976, but back then the gap wasn't due to scheduling oddities or the machinations of the Delanybot 9000 -- no, it was due to good, old fashioned bad blood.  Thanks to some irate Iowa fans, a knockout punch, and a hail of apple cores, the Iowa-Illinois series was put on ice for a decade and a half.

The 8-year gap between games against Illinois in Iowa City is sizable, but unfortunately it won't be particularly uncommon in the years to come.  Not against Illinois -- barring another divisional realignment, Iowa and Illinois should continue to play each other every year for years to come -- but against the Big Ten teams on the other side of the West/East divide.

last game (home) next game(home) last game (away) next game (away)
Indiana 2014 ??? (2020 soonest) 2012 2015, 2018
Maryland n/a 2018 2014 ??? (2020 soonest)
Michigan 2013 2016 2012 2017
Michigan State 2013 ??? (2020 soonest) 2012 2017
Ohio State 2010 2017 2013 ??? (soonest)
Penn State 2012 2017, 2019 2011 2016, 2018
Rutgers n/a 2019 n/a 2016


There will be at least a 6-year gap between home games against Indiana.  That's no great loss, but a 7-year gap between home games against Ohio State or an at least 7-year gap between home games against Michigan State (Big Ten schedules have been released through 2019 and Michigan State is not scheduled to visit Iowa City on any of them, so 2020 is the soonest they could make their next trip to Kinnick)?  That's a little bit harder to swallow.  Ohio State may beat Iowa's brains in more often than not, but they're still a quintessentially Big Ten team -- it feels odd to think that Iowa will play them just three times in an entire decade (2010, 2013, 2017).  The Michigan State gap stings even more since they've become one of Iowa's better rivals over the last 10-15 years.  The Ferentz and Dantonio teams have engaged in several memorable encounters, but we won't be seeing much of them in the future.

Still, Illinois.  It's bizarre to think that they haven't made the trip to Kinnick since 2007.  Back then Iowa fans were engaged in a polarizing debate about a quarterback named Jake -- no, the other quarterback named Jake.  The immortal Juice Williams was quarterbacking the Illini.  Ron Zook was at his peak.

Like I said: bizarre.

Since Illinois last visited, we've seen the collapse of Iowa football (a season-ending whimper of a loss against Western Michigan and an ugly offseason of scandal), the second rise of Iowa football under Ferentz (Shonn Greene!  Daniel Murray!  Pat Angerer!  Tyler Sash! Adrian Clayborn!  The Orange Bowl!), another collapse (2012), and now the whispers of maybe -- just maybe -- another rise.  (Don't call it a comeback, we've been here for... actually do call it a comeback, we haven't been here for many years.)

When Illinois last played in Iowa City, BHGP was in its infancy -- seriously.  This blog rose from The Hawkeye Compulsion and Steve Alford's Hair Gel in the fall of 2007 (in hindsight, not exactly the greatest time for Iowa sports!) and you can still see our humble beginnings in Ye Olde Archives.  Now here we are, 8 years later.  That's 8 real-life years; in internet years, we're, like, 8000 years old at this point.  What a long, strange interwebs adventure it's been.  Lord only knows what the future might hold, but we know one thing: it won't be eight years before we cover another Illinois game in Iowa City.  So we've got that going for us.  Which is nice.  Unlike Illinois, about which nothing is nice and who we hope gets beat by 57 points on Saturday and GRR HATE HATE HATE.

And hey, why not watch some highlights of Illinois' last game in Iowa City?

EPIC GREENWOOD SAVES THE DAY.