Saturday afternoon, there will be a bowl game atmosphere at Wrigley Field as the No. 25 Northwestern Wildcats take on the Illinois Fighting Illini. The Land of Lincoln Trophy -- another one of the Big Ten rivalry trophies -- will be at stake, and for Illinois, they need a win to become bowl-eligible.
For the Wildcats, they would go to 8-3 with a victory and the chance to upgrade their bowl status, possibly going to a New Year's Day bowl game.
Today, the Big Ten announced some rule changes that were necessitated by the unique layout challenges posed by squeezing a football gridiron into Wrigley Field; some normal rules were waived by agreement in order to maximize safety for the players:
1) All offensive plays will head toward the West end zone, including all extra points and all overtime possessions.
2) All kickoffs will be kicked toward the East end zone.
3) After every change of possession, the ball will be repositioned for the offense to head toward the West end zone.
4) As a result of a coin toss held by the conference office Friday morning, Illinois will occupy the West team bench in the first half and Northwestern will occupy the West team bench in the second half and for all overtime periods.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes is of the utmost importance,” said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany. “Both Illinois and Northwestern did significant due diligence over the past 18 months, but after seeing the actual layout of the field, all parties felt that it was appropriate to adjust the rules to further enhance the safety of our student-athletes. Wrigley Field is one of the most historic venues in the country, and playing the Illinois-Northwestern game at this facility will provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience for student-athletes, coaches and fans.”
There will be festivities in the Wrigleyville area beginning as early as 8 a.m., when ESPN's College GameDay show will be broadcast live outside Wrigley Field. "Wildcat Way", an entire block worth of party atmosphere, will be set up on Sheffield Avenue between Addison Street and Waveland Avenue from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. Saturday. And the game, which begins at 2:30 p.m., will be televised on ESPNU.