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    Aug. 29, 2008

    It is amazing how fast the off-season for Illini football has gone!

    I know the players never REALLY stop with weightlifting and conditioning and 7-on-7 drills all summer, but it is a quicker pace now that the season is here.

    Brian Barnhart,
    the Voice of the Illini


    The Illini start the season with the sixth-ranked Missouri Tigers in St.Louis at the Edward Jones Dome. When this series started a few years ago, you had two programs that had questions to answer. In the Illini's case...they were coming off of a Sugar Bowl appearance in New Orleans the previous January under Head Coach Ron Turner, but were not sure what to expect after losing several key players off of that team.

    Meanwhile... Missouri was trying to rebuild its program under Gary Pinkel and were struggling just to keep up with the rest of the Big 12 Conference. The folks that arranged the matchup were hoping to take advantage of the built-in intensity of the Illini-Missouri basketball game every winter and have that carry over to football.

    Now look at this matchup. It is probably the best matchup on college football's first weekend this year with the Tigers hoping to contend for a national championship again and the Illini wanting to build on the momentum of a remarkable run to the Rose Bowl last year and put themselves in contention for their own run at the top spot. Both teams have great nationally known players who deserve the spotlight they will receive when this game kicks off.

    After all the events in St.Louis, the Illini get to play in newly renovated Memorial Stadium. The renovation project with new skyboxes and suites has been non-stop for the last two years, but is now in the home stretch and fans and players alike are excited about settling in to their new surroundings. And one word describes the new surroundings....WOW! It looks even better when you see it person than it did in the initial drawings. It will take your breath away. Congratulations to Warren Hood and his team for a job well done.

    The opponents Sept. 6 will be our friends from Eastern Illinois. The Illini will be wearing throwback uniforms that were worn during the 1960's (complete with numbers on the sides of the helmets). Several Illini greats will be on hand to celebrate the start of what should be an exciting home schedule in the new surroundings.

    Louisiana-Lafayette stops in for a visit on Sept. 13 at 11 a.m. Combined with a reunion of numerous former Illini basketball stars that night at the Assembly Hall, it should make for another memorable weekend on the University of Illinois campus.

    Ron Zook's team is ready to roll. We will be there to follow them every step of the way. Kurt Kittner and Steve Kelly will join me for all the play-by-play and color commentary again this season. We look forward to what should be a great 2008!

    Illinois Athletics

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