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Illinois Football’s best victories at each Big Ten stadium

Reflecting on road triumphs.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

I was planning to write about the 2024 season, but it's Feb. 6, the Super Bowl is this weekend, and, in my head, the next season has not yet started. I am a Niners fan and I'm one of the lucky few whose football season is still alive. And on TCR, for the last few months, Illinois basketball has been the talk of the town and will be until March (hopefully all the way into April).

Don’t get me wrong, there's a lot to talk about Illini football — coaching changes, Illinois' new offensive and defensive lines, “Is Altmyer ready to be QB1 again?”. All of these have storylines that I'll explore in the coming months. But I wanted to take time to respond to my colleague over at Off Tackle Empire and his review of 2023 Illinois football.

If you haven't read it yet, it's a great piece, and Thump, in his 4,690 words, takes a very unique take on the 2023 season.

Was it not what we all expected? No. What it a step back in program building? Probably. Did it crush all momentum from the 2022 season? Yes, absolutely it did.

But you know what, that's kind of what makes it special.

I would rather be Illinois in 2024 than Alabama in 2024 or even Michigan or Washington in 2024. There is this feeling of mediocrity that makes Illinois football special. Weird thing to say, but hear me out. After all, this misery, seasons like the 2022 season make it all worth it. After years and years and years of winning, what are you left with? Alabama, Michigan, and Washington are gutted. Washington was a senior-led team that finally made it to the ship after losing to Montana two years ago, only to have your star young coach flip his commitment at the last second. Jedd Fisch, the Huskies' new coach, is left to pick up all the pieces. Is Washington going to go undefeated in 2024? Hell no. Every dropped pass, opponent chunk play, and missed field goal will be met with disgust and contempt.

For us, that is just every Saturday. And that's the beauty of it. The moment we break the norms of Illinois football and actually win games, that feeling that you feel never goes away.

These feelings seldom show up and even less so on the road.

That being said, here are Illinois' best road wins at every Big Ten stadium:

Beaver Stadium (Penn State) - 2010 - Illini 33-13

NCAA Football: Illinois at Penn State Rob Christy-USA TODAY Sports

The turning point came with a momentum-shifting defensive play, securing a decisive win at Beaver Stadium. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase displayed precision passing and leadership throughout the game. This emotional victory showcased the team’s ability to overcome challenges and established Scheelhaase as a key player in Illinois football history.

Next Game: 9/28/2024

Camp Randall Stadium (Wisconsin) - 2022 - Illini 34-10

NCAA Football: Illinois at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Bielema return game. The first win in 20 years. The blowout. And to top it off, we got Wisconsin’s coach fired. The emotional win here, dominating every side of the ball, was something special to watch.

Next Game: 2025

SHI Stadium (Rutgers) - 2018 - Illinois 38-17

Illinois v Rutgers Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

These Lovie teams were something else. This team lost 63-0 to Iowa at home and lost every road game except at Rutgers. Illinutgers was starting to be a thing, and the Illini were 3-2 to start the season. AJ Bush threw for only 89 yards but ran for 116, and Reggie Corbin ran for 137 more. There was hope early in the season after a thumping of the Scarlet Knight.

Next Game: 11/23/24

The Metrodome (Minnesota) - 1983 - Illinois 50 - 23

From FightingIllini.com: The Metrodome skirmish matched the Illini — the Big Ten’s best team — against the Golden Gophers, the conference’s worst team. Illinois roared ahead, 20-0, on TD runs by Thomas Rooks and Dwight Beverly and a pair of field goals from Chris White. Touchdown passes of 77 and 17 yards from Trudeau to David Williams in the second half and a 35-yard interception return by David Edwards late in the fourth quarter completed Illinois’ 27-point rout.

The Illini won the Big Ten that Year.

Next Game: 2027

Kinnick Stadium (Iowa) - 1902 - Illinois 80-0

80-0. Illinois still owns the largest shutout in this series.

Next Game: 2028 (I am saddened by this)

Maryland Stadium (Maryland) - 2023 - Illinois 27-24

NCAA Football: Illinois at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Needing a win to stop a two-game slide, the Illini fought out a tough win. Aaron Henry’s defense had a bounce-back game, and Caleb Griffin put it through the uprights as time expired to give the Illini their first victory at Maryland Stadium.

Next Game: 2026

Memorial Stadium (Indiana) - 2001 - Illinois 35-14

Image Courtesy of Fighting Illini Athletics

Quarterback Kurt Kittner’s precise passing and a timely defensive turnover were key in the victory at Memorial Stadium. The Illini went on to win the Big Ten and earn a Sugar Bowl berth. Sure, LSU kicked our butts in 2001. But whenever Illinois has a conference championship, it is something to celebrate.

Next Game: 2025

Memorial Stadium (Nebraska) - 1924 - Illinois 9-6

The Illini have won only three times in Lincoln. 1924, 2020, and 2022. Illinois faced off against Nebraska in the first game of the season in 1924. Nebraska had come off winning the Missouri Valley conference three straight times and had beaten Notre Dame’s Fore Horsemen twice in as many years. The Illini showed up and beat the Huskers in front of 25,000 Blackshirts (I know the term had not been invented yet, but it's late and I need to finish this list), ruining the home opener for Nebraska’s new Memorial Stadium.

Next Game: 9/21/24

Michigan Stadium (Michigan) - 2008 - Illinois 45-20

Illinois-Michigan Photo by Jim Prisching/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Illinois doesn't win much in Ann Arbor, but it capitalized in 2008, facing the worst Michigan team since 1967. It was Rich Rodriguez’s first season, and Illinois took advantage and beat the Wolverines in front of 109,000 fans. This was the largest margin of victory at Michigan Stadium in Illini history. Juice Williams threw for 310 yards, ran for 121 more, and scored four touchdowns in the best performance ever by an Illini (the most total yards by any opposing player at the time) in Ann Arbor.

Next Game: 2007

Ohio Stadium (Ohio State) - 2007 - 28 -21

The video says it better than I would ever.

Next Game: 2006

Ross–Ade Stadium (Purdue) - 2001 - Illinois 38-13

This started like a recent game where Purdue just showed up and scored 13 straight points. But the Illini stepped up and had four takeaways took advantage of two missed Boilermaker field goals, and put up 38 straight points to beat the Boilermakers in West Lafayette. In the 22 years since, Illinois has gone 5-17 against the Boilers, with four more wins on the road. It’s not like Ryan Walters needed a rivalry, but the way he is constructing that team, he sure is getting one.

Next Game: 2025

Ryan Field (Northwestern) - 2022 - Illinois 41-3

NCAA Football: Illinois at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern has won 15 of the last 23 meetings. The 38-point beat down was one of the most satisfying games to watch in recent history and a perfect exclamation on the best season since 2007.

Next Game: 11/30/24 At Wrigley Field?

Spartan Stadium (Michigan State) - 2019 - Illinois 37-34

NCAA Football: Illinois at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

I think the second-half comeback against the Spartans in 2019 was probably the most exciting game I have ever watched. I had just celebrated a friend’s birthday at Whirleyball in Bucktown and had gone to a local Mexican joint for some margs and tacos. We left at 28-3 and being us Illini fans had chalked this up as another Lovie loss. But there was me, ignoring the rest of the table, watching on my phone, the stream cutting in and out. One by one, we all started to huddle by my phone, ignoring everything else in the world. Those god awful Michigan State jerseys. The Bhebhe catch. The Sydney Brown pick-6. The Daniel Barker game-winner. That was the beauty of a game.

The Illini won, and that party took a turn for the better.

Next Game: 2026

But that's the thing. As Illini fans, losing is ingrained in our blood. But sweet, sweet victories like that stay with us forever.

I-L-L


Bonus:

  • Rose Bowl - UCLA - 1947 - 45-14 (I am only counting in the Rose Bowl) - Next Game: 2026
  • Husky Stadium - Washington - 1951 - 27-20 - Next Game: 2025 - I will be in attendance
  • Autzen Stadium - Oregon - Never - Next Game: 10/26/24 - I will be in attendance
  • LA Memorial Coliseum - USC - 1989 - 14-13 - Next Game: 2027