The Illinois Fighting Illini will open the 2024 season in Week Zero against the Eastern Illinois Panthers, FBSchedules.com has learned.
Illinois was previously scheduled to host Eastern Illinois at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill., on Sept. 21, 2024. According to a copy of an amendment to the contract obtained from the University of Illinois, the two schools have agreed to reschedule the contest in for Week Zero, which is Saturday, Aug. 24 that season.
Week Zero is the unofficial name for Division I games played the Saturday prior to the Thursday that precedes Labor Day weekend. Hawaii and its opponents are allowed to play in Week Zero under NCAA rules. An exception, Bylaw 188.8.131.52, also provides FCS schools with the opportunity to play in Week Zero if the contest is against a non-conference opponent and it’s nationally televised (broadcast or cable; not Internet only).
The game against Illinois was rescheduled following the release of the 2024 Big Ten football schedule earlier this month. That schedule has Illinois traveling to open conference play against the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Sept. 21, which created a scheduling conflict with the Eastern Illinois contest.
Barring any additional changes to their schedule, the Fighting Illini will have an open date during Week 1 of the season (Aug. 31) before hosting back-to-back non-conference games at Memorial Stadium against the Kansas Jayhawks on Sept. 7 and Central Michigan Chippewas on Sept. 14.
In Big Ten action in 2024, Illinois is scheduled to host Purdue, Michigan, Minnesota, and Michigan State and travel to Nebraska, Penn State, Oregon, Rutgers, and Northwestern.
As part of the agreement to move the 2024 game to Week Zero, Illinois and Eastern Illinois have also agreed to add an additional contest during the 2027 season. Per the document, the two schools “…agree to use their best efforts to secure all necessary approvals” to play the 2027 contest in Week Zero that season (Aug. 28).
Illinois and Eastern Illinois have only met twice on the gridiron in their history. The Illini defeated the Panthers in both contests, 42-17 in 2006 and 47-21 in 2008.