By Doug Halberstadt
The price of oil is back near $100 per barrel, and that means the price of a gallon of gas is back on the rise. So why does that fact make it into a sports column, you may ask.
It has to do with the upcoming college football schedule for the University of Illinois. The team is slated to save a ton of money in their travel budget this year. The Fighting Illini have a total of 12 games on their 2011-12 schedule. Of those 12 games, only eight are away from Champaign.
This year may be their best chance ever at making the most of having any so-called home-field advantage. Six of their first seven games are at Memorial Stadium.
That includes all four of their non-conference games. They open the season against Arkansas State Saturday, Sept. 3. The following week, South Dakota State comes calling, followed by Arizona State Sept. 17. They close out the non-conference portion of the season against Western Michigan University Sept. 24.
Oct. 1, the Northwestern Wildcats will be the Illini’s homecoming opponent and first conference test. It’s not until Oct. 8, the sixth week of the season, that Illinois will spend some of their gas money. Even then, they don’t have that far to go. They’ll cross the state’s eastern border and head for Bloomington, Ind., to take on the Hoosiers.
The only other road trips for the team this year are back to Indiana Oct. 22 to take on the Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette. They’ll travel to University Park, Pa., the next week to face the Penn State Nitany Lions. Their final regular-season game is Nov. 26 against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis.
If the Illini can garner enough total wins this year to earn a postseason bowl bid, one thing is for sure: they should have plenty of money left in the travel budget to get there.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Aug. 3-9, 2011, issue