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Comcast drops Big Ten Network from some out-of-market areas

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Finding something to replace the Michigan spring game on the schedule is suddenly the least of the Big Ten Network’s worries this week. The same could be fans of the conference who live outside the league’s footprint too.

Reports started surfacing Thursday afternoon and evening that cable giant Comcast (who, full disclosure, is the parent company of NBC Universal) had dropped BTN from its lineup in a rather unexpected move given there was no word about any potential carriage battle between the two. As it turns out, this isn’t some wild rumor spreading on social media, the company is indeed dropping BTN from certain packages outside states within the Big Ten footprint.

Straight from the Comcast corporate account:

Markets in Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin will continue to receive the BTN feed like normal.

While some might worry first about whether or not they’re able to watch a certain game, there is a financial aspect to this news that should not go unnoticed. Comcast pays to carry the Big Ten Network and has a different price they pony up each month for the channel depending on what market it is. The out-of-market price is significantly lower than the in-market price but, when you add it all up over 12 months a year and millions of subscribers, this is still a potentially huge hit worth millions of dollars to the bottom line of BTN and, in turn, the schools themselves.

Needless to say this does not impact other providers such as Time Warner, DirecTV, Dish, Verizon and others but this remains an issue for those who have Comcast and want to watch BTN outside Big Ten territory. Based on the states listed above, even those near Big Ten areas like Maryland fans who live in Northern Virginia or Rutgers alumni in Connecticut could also be facing some changes.

You can still likely get the channel in your area on Comcast but it may now require a change to a different package so if you’re a Buckeye in Oregon or a Wolverine in California, you might want to double-check your channel lineup after today’s news.

Illinois unveils new Nike uniforms, including updated ‘Gray Ghost’ look to honor Red Grange

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There’s no better time to do a re-branding than when you’re still undefeated on the season and that’s just what Illinois is doing on Friday, unveiling a new look for the 2018 football season — and beyond — with a set of redesigned uniforms. As part of the new Nike Vapor Untouchable line, the program introduced a trio of jerseys (in navy blue, orange and white), three pairs of pants (in the same colors) and one new orange helmet to round things out.

Per the Illini release:

“The jerseys are bold, yet traditional in design, inspired by the Dick Butkus era jerseys of the 1960s. Illinois’ traditional block I logo remains prominent on the sides of the helmet and at the base of the collar. A unique two-column pattern is set in both the jerseys and the numbers as a nod to the historic columns at Memorial Stadium, which represent Illinois soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. “

It’s not just the traditional base uniforms that were released however, as the school is also paying tribute to Hall of Famer Red Grange by updating their annual ‘Gray Ghost’ homecoming uniforms as well. The entire outfit is a nod to Grange, who was nicknamed the “Galloping Ghost” when he was in Champaign (way) back in the day.

The gray uniforms aside, many have been quick to note that the base look for the Illinois looks almost exactly like what Syracuse wears outside of a few minor alterations. That’s probably not what the designers nor the school were going for but given the shade of orange involved, there probably wasn’t a ton for Nike or the Illini to work with.

Obviously the new uniforms are at least a nice update but it won’t mean much come this fall if the team can’t turn things around in what should be a make or break year for the program and head coach Lovie Smith.

QB Brandon Dawkins hopes to make transfer decision before late-May graduation from Arizona

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Brandon Dawkins still doesn’t know to where he will transfer. The erstwhile Arizona quarterback does, however, have somewhat of a timeline for a decision to be made.

Late last week, it was reported that Florida Atlantic, Indiana, Nebraska and UCLA have all expressed interest in the quarterback. It was also confirmed that Dawkins has plans to visit the campuses of FAU and IU in the coming weeks.

In an interview with Rivals.com, Dawkins acknowledged that those are the four main schools who are in pursuit of him. He also told the website that he hopes to announce a decision on his new college football home before he graduates from UA in late May.

“I just want to be done with it as soon as possible,” the Thousand Oaks, Calif., product told the site. “I’m not in high school anymore. I’m not trying to have a bunch of offers and brag and post about them. I just want to know where I’m going to go and settle in and start learning that playbook and get to wherever I’m going and start learning the offense and get with the team and start getting that chemistry going.”

On Twitter late last month, Dawkins announced that he would be transferring from Arizona.

As a graduate transfer, Dawkins would be eligible to play immediately in 2018 at whichever of the quartet of schools he ultimately lands. The upcoming season will serve as Dawkins’ final year of eligibility at the collegiate level.

Dawkins started nine games in 2016 and the first four games this past season before the force of nature known as Khalil Tate took over. All told, he played in 23 games during his four seasons in the desert. The 13 starts previously mentioned were the only ones of his UA career.

For the Wildcats portion of his playing career, Dawkins completed just over 56 percent of his 334 passes for 2,418 yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He ran for another 1,582 yards and 20 more touchdowns.

USC graduate transfer Jalen Greene heads east to play at Illinois in 2018

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Greene is turning orange. Well, Jalen Greene is at least.

The former USC wide receiver who announced he would pursue a graduate transfer earlier this month announced on Twitter that he would be heading East to play at Illinois in 2018. He will be immediately eligible to play for the Illini.

Greene was originally recruited by the Trojans as a dual-threat quarterback but eventually made the move to receiver. He caught eight passes for 98 yards at USC last season as a partial starter and added another eight receptions for 116 yards the year prior.

Illinois has already begun spring practice and has been trying several new players at wide receiver in the process to find a good complement to Mike Dudek on the outside. It seems Greene could find himself in the mix to be one of those guys when he arrives in Champaign.

Ex-Nebraska, Virginia Tech QB AJ Bush says he’s headed to Illinois

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Nearly two years after leaving the Big Ten, AJ Bush is back.

Bush confirmed to 247Sports.com that he has decided to transfer to Illinois for his final season of eligibility.  The quarterback will be coming to the Fighting Illini as a graduate transfer, meaning he’d be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

It would also mean he’d see his former team on the opposing sidelines this year as the Cornhuskers will play host to the Illini Nov. 10 this year.

This will mark Bush’s fourth college football team, joining Nebraska, an Iowa junior college and Virginia Tech on his winding football journey.

“It’s a great opportunity, just like every other one was great as well,” Bush told the website. “The decisions made before led me to where I am today. So at the end of the day, I can’t be nothing but optimistic about the future. I’m an optimistic person. I never have burned bridges with anybody. It’s always been respect for me wherever I went. I never had any regrets, but you only get one year and you only get one opportunity. I’m fortunately blessed with this one.”

Bush was a three-star 2014 member of Nebraska’s 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 44 dual-threat quarterback in the country coming out of high school in Georgia.  He also held offers from, among others, Boston College, Cincinnati and Kansas State.

After taking a redshirt his true freshman season, Bush didn’t see the field in 2015 for the Cornhuskers.  In August of 2016, Bush decided to transfer from NU, ultimately winding up at Iowa Western Community College not long after.  After one season at the JUCO, he transferred to Virginia Tech.

In five games last season, Bush completed seven of his 11 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown.  He also ran the ball for 129 yards on 19 carries.