Ball State's running back James Gilbert is tackled by an Akron player during the game on Oct. 22, 2016 in Scheumann Stadium. The Cardinals lost 25 to 35. Grace Ramey, DN File
Ball State to pocket $900,000 against Illinois
Ball State football's game against Illinois marks the seventh time in eight years that the Cardinals play a Big Ten opponent.
It's also coming with a $900,000 paycheck from Illinois as laid out in a "Home Game Agreement" contract between the two schools.
This process of Power Five schools, like Illinois in this case, paying mid-major schools like Ball State to play are called "guarantee games," and is not uncommon in the Football Bowl Subdivision nowadays.
Upcoming Big Ten opponents
2018 – at Indiana (9/15)
2019 – vs Indiana (8/31)
2020 – at Michigan (9/12), at Indiana (9/19)
2021 – at Penn State (9/11)
While these games are normally lopsided, Illinois is currently a 6.5 point favorite, a slim line compared to some of the other Mid-American Conference games this weekend.
Since 2010, Ball State is 2-4 against Big Ten schools, but its played in some competitive games against the conference. Outside of the 45-0 loss against Iowa in 2010, Ball State has played won a pair of games against Indiana (27-20 in 2011, 41-39 in 2012) and came close against then No. 17 ranked Northwestern (19-24) in 2015.
This also won't be the last time Ball State plays a Big Ten team, with five more on the schedule from 2018-2021.
Ball State begins its season against Illinois on Saturday, Sept. 2 and 12 p.m. EST.