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)
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.
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.