How Nebraska-Illinois became college football’s game of the week

“Knowing the game was on a Week 0, there’s a lot of firsts in this game,” said Derek Crocker, Fox’s vice president of college sports.

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So how does a football game between Illinois and Nebraska gain a national audience Saturday on Fox as the only game between Power Five teams?

The game originally was scheduled to be played Saturday in Dublin, but the pandemic scrapped those plans and moved it back to Champaign. Before the teams agreed to play in Ireland, it was an Illinois home game scheduled for Nov. 13.

Illinois kept that week open, but Nebraska filled it with FCS team Southeastern Louisiana. The schools received approval to keep the game in Week 0 – the week before the vast majority of teams begin their seasons – and Fox jumped at the chance to air it. Only four other FBS games are scheduled.

“Knowing the game was on a Week 0, there’s a lot of firsts in this game,” said Derek Crocker, Fox’s vice president of college sports. “The biggest thing for us is that this is the first time fans will be allowed back into Big Ten football stadiums since 2019.

“So together with all of the other firsts – literally the first college football game of the season, and it’s the first game for Bret Bielema back in the Big Ten versus a brand like Scott Frost and Nebraska – we thought it was important to have a really strong start to the season.”

Fox gave the game a fine crew in play-by-play voice Joe Davis, analyst Brock Huard and reporter Bruce Feldman. The broadcast will begin at noon, and kickoff is scheduled for 12:20.

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