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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.

Homicide charge dropped against Ex-Indiana RB Camion Patrick, but not his “Last Chance U” brother

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Former Indiana running back Camion Patrick was charged in connection with a fatal stabbing of an 18-year old man in Tennessee in September. Now, Patrick has had the charge dropped by a county judge.

A Blount County judge dismissed the homicide charge filed against Patrick after prosecutors failed to prove probable cause against Patrick during a preliminary hearing. While Patrick may have escaped the homicide charge, three others did not. Among the three is Patrick’s brother, Isaiah Wright. Two other suspects, Kewshawn Lonnel Hopewell and Itiq Tivone Green, remain on bail with Wright. All three will see the case move to a grand jury to determine if indictments will be made against them.

Both Patrick and Wright played JUCO football at East Mississippi Community College, the program featured in the Netflix series “Last Chance U.” Patrick transferred to Indiana, where he was on a medical hardship at the time of the incident. He was later suspended by the school as well in light of the charge filed against him.

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.

Indiana’s J-Shun Harris suffers third torn ACL

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If you are any kind of human being whatsoever, this has to sicken you on an emotional level even if you have no attachment to the football program or the player.

J-Shun Harris missed the entire 2015 season because of a torn ACL suffered in July of that year.  A torn ACL sustained in August of last year cost the Indiana wide receiver the entire 2016 season.  After recovering from those devastating twin injuries, Harris returned to the playing field in 2017, only to see this season come to a premature end.

Because of yet another torn ACL.

The latest significant knee injury came during IU’s loss to Maryland this past weekend.

“Kid has been an absolute warrior to come back from the first two,” Hoosiers head coach Tom Allen said. “My heart breaks for him. He’s just overcome so much.”

Prior to the initial injury, Harris was the Hoosiers’ leading returning receiver heading into the 2015 season after catching 18 passed for 168 yards as a true freshman in 2014.  This season, he has just three catches for 14 yards, although punt returns are where he will really be missed.

Harris had returned two punts for touchdowns already in 2017, one of just seven FBS players to have two or more this year.  His 19 yards per return is second nationally behind Washington’s Dante Pettis and UCF’s Mike Hughes, who both average 20.5 a return.

Twice, Harris was named the Big Ten’s Special Teams Player of the Week this season.

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.