The last time Indiana football lost back-to-back season openers was during the 2000 and 2001 seasons. A loss to Iowa last year puts the Hoosiers at greater odds to seal that 20+ year gap at home against Illinois this Friday.
“I’m very thankful that we’re home,” head coach Tom Allen said in a press conference on Monday. “Excited for our players to come and compete and play at a high level in front of our fans and begin 2022 in the way we want it to start.”
Indiana will open the season against a Big Ten Conference opponent for the second year in a row.
“Big Ten football, it's what you expect,” Allen said. “Really good football teams every single week, and a tremendous challenge, great opportunity.”
Led by second-year head coach Bret Bielema, Illinois came into the 2022 season off of a 5-7 record the previous year. Two of their five wins came against then-No. 7 Penn State and then-No. 20 Minnesota, both on the road.
In 2021, Illinois ranked 10th in the Big Ten Conference in offensive yards per game, although their defense ranked sixth in the Big Ten.
Despite losing their starting quarterback Brandon Peters, to the NFL, the Fighting Illini picked up former Syracuse University quarterback senior Tommy DeVito. It was announced Aug. 25 that DeVito would assume the role of starting quarterback for the 2022 season.
“He’s a really talented player,” Allen said. “Devito seems to be a great fit for what they’re doing schematically.”
While Indiana opens its season on Friday, Illinois will already have a game under their belt after playing the University of Wyoming last Saturday during “Week 0.” The Fighting Illini impressed in their first game of the season, beating the Cowboys 38-6.
While Wyoming wasn’t able to find the endzone at all during the game being held to two field goals, Illinois’s offense was rolling. In his first game in an Illini uniform, DeVito went for 194 yards, 27-37 and two touchdown passes.
The majority of the Fighting Illini’s offense on Saturday was focused on the ground game. Illinois had a total of 260 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns, while junior running back Chase Brown accounted for 151 yards and two touchdowns on just 19 carries.
On the defensive side, the Fighting Illini held the Cowboys to just one third down conversion on 12 attempts, while also forcing an interception and fumble.
As for Indiana, they come into the 2022 season off one of the program’s worst seasons in recent history. Last year, the Hoosiers went 2-10 overall and were unable to win a single conference game.
Indiana ranked last in the Big Ten in offensive yards per game, while ranking 10th out of 14 teams in defensive yards allowed per game in 2021.
Indiana’s list of personnel losses is a long one, including multiple pieces from their offense and defense: veteran quarterback Michael Penix Jr., receivers Peyton Hendershot and Ty Fryfogle and defensive players Micah McFadden, Ryder Anderson, and Marcelino McCrary-Bell.
Still, the Hoosiers returned key players senior cornerback duo Tiawan Mullen and Jaylin Williams, senior linebackers Cam Jones and Alfred Bryant and senior offensive lineman senior Matthew Bedford.
On top of that, Indiana acquired former University of Missouri redshirt junior quarterback Connor Bazelak, former University of North Carolina senior running back Josh Henderson and former Auburn University senior running back Shaun Shivers.
Indiana also welcomed new offensive coordinator Walt Bell and new defensive coordinator Chad Wilt.
Illinois has the historical advantage in the matchup against Indiana, leading 45-24 all time. The last contest between these two programs turned in Indiana's favor, where the Hoosiers won 24-14 on Nov. 11, 2017 in Champaign, Illinois. Indiana is currently on a three-game winning streak against Illinois, and the last time the Fighting Illini beat the Hoosiers was 2011.
Indiana comes into its season opener against Illinois as a three point underdog. The Hoosiers and Illini will kick off at 8 p.m. Friday and will air on FS1.