Last week, we asked you to pick the nonconference opponent you'd most like to see your favorite team play in the near future. You could pick a team already on the upcoming schedule or one that inexplicably hasn't been added.
The response so far has been great. If your team hasn't been featured so far (the list of teams is at the bottom of this post), please make sure to send us your picks here and here, and be sure to identify your Big Ten allegiance and why you're picking a certain nonconference foe.
Today, Illinois fans sound off on whom they'd like to see the Illini play:
Tony from Chicago: The Illini could use some more punch in their nonconference matchups. Since the Mizzou rivalry ended, those early season games have been missing some excitement, although it was nice to beat a ranked Arizona State team at night in Champaign. Playing Washington at Soldier Field is a nice start, though. How about renewing Mizzou or playing Notre Dame in Chicago? Both games provide border state opponents which should help sell some tickets. Since the B1G is expanding east, maybe Illinois could add some games out that way to increase exposure. Pitt, Syracuse or North Carolina could provide some nice home and home matchups. Or the Illini could try to get into a series with teams in recruit rich states. UCLA in Cali. Baylor in Texas (hey we did beat RG3 in a recent bowl game). Or we could head down south to Florida. Either Florida State to see which band plays the war song better or play Florida in the Ron Zook memorial game.
Rakesh from Louisville, Ky.: I have a point and then I'll state my point for schools that Illinois should play. I don't know if you've realized this, but every time Illinois plays a non-conference team, it seems to be their best year ever (see Mizzou series, Cincinnati, probably UW this year, ASU should've broken out last year but failed). So I think a lot of schools should be requesting Illinois on the schedule. But on to schools Illinois should play: other state schools that seem to be subpar in their conference like Cal, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Virginia, NC State, Auburn, UConn, Mizzou, Arizona or ASU, and Kansas. I particularly like Auburn or UVa just because of the color schemes though.
Kevin from Rock Island, Ill.: As an Illinois fan, there are a couple games that I would love to see. I think Notre Dame would be great to play in Indianapolis and Chicago. Schedule-wise for them, it probably would not work out because of the ACC and other B1G commitments. The proximity and the fact that it's hard not to dislike ND would make it entertaining. The second is North Carolina. Schools in major conferences who have struggled to maintain consistency, and I, like thousands of other Illinois fans, will never forgive them for beating Dee, Deron, and Luther in the 2005 National Championship game. We can take out some frustration in a nasty hard-hitting game.
Steve from Chicago: As an Illinois fan, I want to see Alabama added to the schedule, even if it means having to play them in Tuscaloosa. Beating the best team in the country is the easiest way to get national attention (like Texas A&M did), and you can't beat them if you don't play them. Even if Illinois loses, they might impress some potential recruits and gain valuable experience just by playing the game.
Patrick from Alexandria, Va.: I've got degrees from both Illinois and Wisconsin, though I'm a Badger fan. For Illinois, Missouri is the best possible non-conference game, a natural rivalry, which (all respect to Northwestern) Illinois really lacks. The interstate enmity was obvious the first time I attended a game between these schools, in C-U, back in 1966. It was "Misery" vs. "Ill-annoy."
@Mavericklerk via Twitter: I'd love to have Mizzou back on the schedule. Other nice options would be Iowa St. / UVA / No. IL / OK St. / GA Tech
@chrispatton_33 via Twitter: I'd like games vs historically similar teams that are driveable for fans & haven't played recently: Iowa State, KU, UK, Vandy. I'd also like Illini to play Boise at Soldier Field. Gets a name game in Chicago vs a team you don't recruit against.
@Kwiese06 via Twitter: Would love to see a home and home with ND. Wouldn't mind seeing a power, even if it's a loss, like LSU, Bama, Florida, or UGA.
@bmstahl via Twitter: I'm tired of games against Low-level opponents with tiny attendance. Bring in National Powers, even if we get drilled.
My two cents: I find it interesting that a few people said Missouri, though there doesn't seem to be a burning desire among Illini fans to bring back that rivalry. The Tigers are one of the few true nonconference rivals that Illinois has, but that series didn't exactly benefit the Illini in recent years. Notre Dame makes a lot of sense geographically, especially if it could be played in Chicago. Yet I'm not sure the Irish would have much interest in that, since they are putting more of their focus in playing in different areas of the country. An opponent like Kentucky or Louisville would seem to make sense geographically.
I like that several fans want to see high-level opponents, even if they realize their team might have trouble winning those games. Illinois needs to do some things to energize the fan base, and bringing marquee opponents into Champaign (or even Soldier Field) is one way to accomplish that. Unlike Steve from Chicago, however, I shudder to think what would happen if the Illini went into Tuscaloosa.
More fan nonconference picks