CHAMPAIGN, Ill., -- As always, I love to utilize this space each week during the season to not only give you the important info -- game time, TV channel, betting lines, etc. -- but also drop a bit of randomness on your plate.

Wyoming and Illinois have never met on a football field before. They have matched up on the hardwood, though. You might recall that one.

Despite a 25-point outing from Charles Bradley, and Bill Garnett (15) and Mike Jackson (10) both reaching double figures, the Cowboys fell to the 19th-ranked Illini 67-65 in the second round of the 1981 NCAA Tournament.

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Jim Brandenburg's bunch rolled Howard in the first round, 78-43. Illinois' balanced attack, led by Eddie Johnson, Mark Smith and Perry Range, was just too much to overcome inside Los Angeles' Pauley Pavilion.

I digress.

While this Zero-Week meeting will be a first, there are a few interesting tidbits from this one.

Bart Miller is heading into his second season as the offensive line coach in Champaign. He spent that same number of seasons on the High Plains, helping lead the Cowboys' front five to a spot on the Joe Moore Award Midseason Honor Roll. That goes to the best line in the nation. Wyoming was one of just 24 teams to earn that distinction in 2019.



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Speaking of that season, the Pokes opened up against Missouri in Laramie. Led by quarterback Sean Chambers and running back Xazavian Valladay, UW gashed the Tigers' defense to the tune of 297 rushing yards on 42 carries. That's an average of 7.1 yards per tote.

Before Ryan Walters was named a nominee for the Broyles Award, an honor given to the nation's top assistant coach, after leading the Illini's defense to one of the country's most-drastic turnarounds in '21, he was busy pulling his hair out on that picture-perfect night inside War Memorial Stadium.

Prior to his Illinois tenure, Walters was Missouri's defensive coordinator. You think the Pokes still give him nightmares?

Wyoming has plenty of Big Ten flavor on its coaching staff, too.

Head coach Craig Bohl played football at Nebraska. He also coached at his alma mater from 1995-2002. Bohl also spent two seasons at Wisconsin (1987-88). Wyoming's lone win over a current member of that conference came against Badgers the season prior to Bohl's arrival in Madison.

Joe Tripodi, the Cowboys' first-year offensive line coach, played up the road from Champaign at Northwestern. He also spent nine seasons at Northern Illinois, recruiting against his former rivals. Wyoming offensive coordinator Tim Polasek was the offensive line coach at Iowa from 2017-20, and Mike Grant, UW wide receivers coach and associate head coach, played his college ball in Lincoln and also served as a coach for the Huskers from 1993-96.

Defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel coached at Minnesota from 2011-16 and defensive graduate assistant Johnathan Celestin played linebacker for the Gophers from 2014-17. Austin Maus, an offensive grad assistant, served as a recruiting assistant at Iowa from 2017-19 and was also a student assistant in Iowa City from 2019-21.

Wyoming also currently has three players on its roster from the Land of Lincoln: Offensive guard Jack Walsh (Palatine), cornerback Jovan Marsh (Robbins) and tight end Jackson Marcotte (Mt. Carmel).

The News-Gazette did a feature this week on former UW running back Andy Dixon, who spent nearly three decades as Illinois' equipment manager.

Who is he pulling for Saturday?

"Since I’m sitting in the Wyoming section, I’ll probably be all brown and gold," Dixon said.

Here is all you need to know -- and the links -- for Saturday's tilt in Champaign:

WHO: Wyoming (0-0) at Illinois (0-0)
WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 27 at 2 p.m. MST
WEATHER: High of 84, low of 65, partly cloudy, winds at 5 mph
WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill. (60,670 capacity)
TVBig Ten Network
RADIO: Cowboy Sports Network
STREAMING: Fubo/ DirecTV/ Sling/ YouTube
TICKETS: Illinois Ticket office
ROSTERS: Wyoming / Illinois
BETMGM ODDS: Illinois -14, O/U 42.5 (Could be subject to change)
HISTORY: First meeting
HEAD COACHES: Craig Bohl / Bret Bielema

UW vs. NIU September 11, 2021

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