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Injury likely forcing Illinois to go back to Jeff George Jr. at QB

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The signal-calling merry-go-round continues for Illinois, with the Fighting Illini apparently set to go back to the past for its starter this weekend.

According to reports coming out of the area, head coach Lovie Smith indicated to fans and boosters in attendance at an event earlier in the day Friday that Jeff George Jr. will likely start Saturday’s game against Indiana at quarterback.  George Jr. will replace Cam Thomas, who is suffering from an unspecified injury.

Chayce Crouch started the first four games of the 2017 season before being benched in favor of George Jr. in early October.  For the Week 10 loss to Purdue, George Jr. was benched in favor of Thomas, who made his first career start against the Boilermakers.

Collectively, the Illini’s 100.0 pass efficiency rating is currently 124th out of the 130 teams at the FBS level; just one Power Five team, Rutgers (98.5, 125th), is worse.  That poor quarterback play is a significant reason why the Illini has lost seven games in a row and will miss out on a bowl game for the third straight season, the last two on Smith’s watch.

Illini DC Hardy Nickerson taking leave after mom’s death

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Understandably, Lovie Smith‘s coaching staff could very well be down a man this coming weekend.

Sunday night, the mother of Illinois defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson unexpectedly passed away. Illini head coach Lovie Smith confirmed Monday that his coordinator has gone back to California to be with his family and help to take care of their collective loss following the matriarch’s death.

Whether Nickerson is available for this coming weekend’s home game against Indiana remains to be seen, although that appears to be the least of Smith’s concerns.

“When anything happens family-wise, my policy and what I insist on is them to take care of the family,” the coach said. “The rest of us will pick up the slack with what needs to be done here.”

When it comes to who would step in if Nickerson is a game-day unavailable, Smith, a former NFL DC, stated he has “called a couple defensive games, and know a little bit about defensive football.”

Outside of that football aspect, we give Nickerson and his family our thoughts, prayers and condolences for their loss.

Big Ten lines up Thursday and Friday night football for 2018

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The Big Ten is planning ahead to buckle down and try to make Thursday night and Friday night football a thing in the conference. After breaking the ice on Thursday and Friday night football in the 2017 season, the conference has officially moved five games on the 2018 conference schedule to Thursday and Friday nights.

Purdue will host Northwestern in the Big Ten season opener on Thursday, August 30, marking the second straight season the Big Ten will kick off the college football season with a Thursday night football game. Indiana hosted Ohio State in a Thursday night season opener this season. The opening week of the season will continue the following night with Michigan State hosting Utah State and Wisconsin hosting Western Kentucky on Friday, August 21, 2018. This will mark the second straight season Wisconsin will open the season at home on a Friday night in Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers hosted Utah State on Friday, September 1 this season.

The three games on Thursday and Friday night in the opening week of the 2018 season keeps the Big Ten on the primetime lineup on various TV partners between ESPN, FOX Sports, and the Big Ten Network, although the programming specifics will come later on. But the idea of adding games to Thursday and Friday nights has been designed to add programming to TV partners and add content across all partner networks as part of the latest contracts with ESPN and FOX, along with the Big Ten Network.

The Big Ten has moved two additional games Friday nights next season as well. Illinois will host Penn State on Friday, September 21, 2018. Minnesota will host Indiana on Friday, October 26, 2018.

Illini lose DB Tony Adams to season-ending shoulder surgery

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Earlier this year, Tony Adams became the first true freshman to start at cornerback for Illinois since Vontae Davis in 2006.  A few weeks later, his season has ended on a much lower note.

Lovie Smith has confirmed that Adams will miss the remainder of 2017 after undergoing surgery on his shoulder.  The defensive back originally suffered the injury in an Oct. 7 loss to Iowa and didn’t play in last weekend’s loss to Rutgers because of it.

This marks the second straight year Adams’ season has ended prematurely as he suffered a torn ACL as a senior in high school.

“Unfortunately, you know he was doing some good things for us,” Smith said according to the Associated Press. “But, you know Tony had a serious knee injury in high school and came back from it so he’ll come back from this.”

Adams was a three-star 2017 signee who was rated as the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Illinois.  In the Sept. 15 loss to South Florida, he recorded his first career interception.

Urban Meyer now 10-1 vs. his former assistants with romp over D.J. Durkin and Maryland

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Once again, the teacher has taken a former student to school.

Despite an embarrassing series of first-half special teams gaffes that bled into the third quarter, and with their opponent starting their third-string quarterback, Ohio State jumped out to a 41-7 halftime lead and never really looked back en route to a 62-14 woodshedding of overmatched Maryland.  In the first half alone, the Buckeyes held a 361-26 advantage in total offense; they finished the game with 584 yards to the Terrapins’ 66, 27 of which came on a late touchdown drive following an OSU fumble by backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

J.T. Barrett accounted for four touchdowns — three passing and one rushing — in three quarters worth of work.  True freshman J.K. Dobbins led all rushers 96 yards on 13 carries.

The Terps, which were forced to go to fourth-string quarterback Caleb Henderson after third-stringer Max Bortenschlager was knocked out of the game late in the third quarter, wer limited to just 16 yards passing for the entire game.  They also averaged just 1.2 yards per carry, and their only touchdown prior to the one in garbage time came on a kickoff return for a score in the first quarter.

With the win, Urban Meyer improved to 10-1 all-time against his former assistant coaches who went on to become head coaches.  The lone loss for Meyer?  Florida’s 10-7 defeat in 2010 to Mississippi State and Dan Mullen, Meyer’s former offensive coordinator with the Gators.

Since that loss, Meyer has ripped off nine straight wins over his former assistants, all of which have come since he came to OSU.  And those wins haven’t, for the most part, even been close as the Buckeyes won those games by an average of 42.6 points per game.  The only team to come within 25 points of OSU Urban was Gary Andersen‘s Wisconsin Badgers, which dropped a 31-24 decision in September of 2013; take out that game, and margin of victory stretches to 47.6 ppg.

Below are the all-time records of Meyer assistants vs. their former boss:

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State, 1-1 (29-19 loss in 2009; 10-7 win in 2010)
Tim Beckman, Illinois, 0-3 (52-22 loss in 2012; 60-35 loss in 2013; 55-14 loss in 2014)
Gary Andersen, Wisconsin, 0-2 (31-24 loss in 2013; 59-0 loss in 2014)
Chris Ash, Rutgers, 0-2 (58-0 loss in 2016; 56-0 loss in 2017)
D.J. Durkin, Maryland, 0-2 (62-3 loss in 2016; 62-14 loss in 2017)

This was also the 200th game of Meyer’s career as a head coach, with his teams going 170-30 in that span.  His .850 winning percentage is fourth all-time among FBS head coaches behind a pair of Notre Dame greats, Knute Rockne (.881) and Frank Leahy (.864), as well as Bowling Green’s Doyt Perry (.855).  It’s the highest for any coach with at least 200 games under his belt; Nebraska’s Tom Osborne and his .836 clip in 307 career games had previously held that honor.