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Five non-conference teams Illinois should play in 2025

Ohio moved on. Should Alabama move in?

Middle Tennessee v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Tuesday afternoon, we heard the unfortunate news that a team from Ohio will not be playing Illinois. At TCR, we thought that out of protest, we should be able to keep the Illibuck trophy instead of the cowardly Buckeyes.

But upon closer inspection of Brett McMurphy’s tweet, it was rather the Ohio Bobcats, not just another Ohio State University.

This got me thinking.

Illinois has a knack for scheduling teams that have been forever in the dumps but miraculously become good right before they play the Illini, much like Kansas in this year, Virginia in 2021, South Florida in 2017-18, and North Carolina in 2015-16.

But what if Illinois used this as an opportunity to schedule teams that are on the decline? Gain an automatic win in 2025.

So without further ado here are the teams I would want Illinois to schedule in 2025 instead of Ohio University.

5. University of Alabama

Nick Saban has lost his program. This past weekend, Alabama rolled into Tampa Bay after benching Jalen Milroe in only the third game of the year. They only beat South Florida 17-3, in a game where this was the score two minutes before halftime.

Alabama’s starting quarterback Tyler Buchner was 5/14 for 34 years before being benched for Ty Simpson, who went 5/9 for 73 yards. This is a decline for a team that produced Mac Jones, Jalen Hurts, and Tua Tagovailoa. Alabama is on a decline. Give me Bama in 2025.

Besides, Michigan State might have Saban on the sidelines by then.


4. TCU

TCU isn't TCU of 2022. And they should have a spot open in 2025 with SMU moving to the ACC.

TCU is also only a 30-minute drive from the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport — one of the few direct flights from Willard.

Dallas is also a large recruiting ground for football. Having a home and home series with TCU would be beneficial from all angles and, who knows, TCU might not be as good as they were in 2022. We are already seeing the decline now.

3. Colorado

NCAA Football: Colorado State at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Deion may not even be at the school by then. Travis Hunter and Shadeur Sanders will probably be on an NFL roster. They have a game scheduled with Houston, which would most definitely be canceled in 2025 since both schools would be in the Big 12.

Also, Fox made this game personal when they ripped Big Noon from Grange Grove. Maybe, just maybe, the Deion effect carries into 2025, where the ranked Buffaloes come into Champaign only to be dissected by senior Luke Altmyer.

The more I think about it, this game does intrigue me. Both teams were at the bottom of the barrel in their respective conferences. And both teams have climbed up the chain — one quicker than the other, I’ll give you that.

2. Houston

TCU v Houston Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Look, Houston is a P5 team with a spot open in 2025. Houston, while good in the AAC, will need some time to become good in the Big 12. Much like TCU, Houston has a deep recruiting base and allows Illinois to play in the southern part of the United States.

1. Washington State or Oregon State

Neither of these teams has a home beyond this season. When the season ends in January this year, both teams either need to find a home or find new matchups to fill their schedule. Recruiting at these schools will certainly fall whether or not the Pac-2 goes independent or merges with the Mountain West.

Either way, I would love for this to happen. Illinois gets a test early in the season, with schools that should see a decline in overall talent, all thanks to the tv networks.

This is a perfect time to schedule a game with the Cougs or the Beavers.

I will attempt to make either game if they play in Pullman or Corvallis.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Notre Dame
  • 10 Big Ten games (most likely outcome)