Planning to find a comfy spot on the couch to watch some Big Ten football this weekend? Somewhere in Bloomington, IU coach Tom Allen will be doing the same thing, perhaps with a bit more purpose than you.
Indiana has been thinking about Illinois since the Big Ten placed them on the week one schedule in January.
But on Saturday the IU staff will have a unique opportunity to pause their preseason planning and watch what is coming to Bloomington next Friday.
The Fighting Illini play in one of eleven so-called “week zero” college football games on Saturday when they host Wyoming at 4 p.m. Eastern on the Big Ten Network.
Front and center watching their big screens will be Tom Allen and his assistant coaches.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever had this happen before like this,” Allen said of the quirk in the schedule that allows him to watch his season opening opponent play a week earlier. “And matter of fact, I would say we haven’t, you know, and so very unique for sure.”
Allen already has a bit more information to work from on Illinois than what he has shared with the outside world.
Illinois has a new offensive coordinator like Indiana, but unlike the Hoosiers, the Illini played a public spring game, which provided a preview of what’s to come from OC Barry Lunney’s offense. Now on Saturday, Allen and his staff will get a much more expansive look under the hood.
“We’re going to see if what we’ve been working on has been on point or if we need to make some adjustments,” Allen said. “We have some time allotted for that for the rest of the night on Saturday and early on Sunday morning and then by the time we take the field again we’ll have had a chance to make those adjustments.”
While it seems like a major advantage for Indiana to sit and watch Illinois while producing no film for the Illini to scour, Illinois coach Bret Bielema sees an advantage on his side by getting in a game before their Big Ten opener.
“You see a huge amount of improvement in players that have never played the game from week 1 to week 2,” Bielema said in July at Big Ten media day.
“That’s kind of why I was lobbying, when the original schedule was set up, we actually were opening up at Wisconsin. So the driving force, it ended up being Indiana now, but was a Big Ten road game. I thought if we could play one game at home, get our feet under us, and get a week zero in, and we got it done.”
Also in Indiana’s favor is the quick turnaround Illinois will face, going from a late afternoon Saturday game to a Friday night kickoff on the road in Bloomington.
But the clock starts for both teams at 4 p.m. on Saturday, and Allen plans to have his program spread out all over town, on Illini watch.
‘We’re going to basically continue the preparation and then take a window of time to stop and watch the game,” Allen said. “We’re going to get players together and watch it in their groups and to be able to do that from just kind of togetherness standpoint not necessarily in the facility but at different restaurants or houses or wherever we’re gonna have those guys get together and then we’re gonna watch it together as a staff.”
Indiana may be best served by a close game between Illinois and Wyoming, so the Illini can’t go vanilla in the second half and protect as much of their playbook as possible. Illinois is currently at 14-point favorite over the Cowboys.
However it goes, the real work begins for IU on Saturday evening, dissecting what they saw from the couch, and pivoting towards week one preparation.
Indiana and Illinois kick off at 8 p.m. Eastern on Friday night in Bloomington (FS1).
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