LAWRENCE, Ks. (WCIA) — The Illini land in Lawrence looking to take another step forward. The team arrived in Topeka and made the short drive to Lawrence. Head coach Bret Bielema hasn’t started a season 2-0 in his time with the Illini. That’s at stake under the Friday night lights at Kansas with a match-up against the Jayhawks in prime time.

It’s a game that features two very similar programs. Both Illinois and Kansas are known as basketball schools, but both have had a resurgence in football as of late. Lance Leipold was hired in 2021, the same year as Bielema. Leipold was rumored to be a candidate to come to Champaign, but he lands in Lawrence and has transformed the progra, their six wins last season the most since 2008.

Leipold and Bielema have known each other for a long time, back to when Leipold was coaching Wisconsin-Whitewater to six Division III National Titles; Bielema was the head coach at Wisconsin then. All these years later, Leipod still remembers when he got the Buffalo job, Bielema invited him to Arkansas for a visit.

“You know Bret’s been awesome to me,” Leipold said.” He reached out twice and invited me down to Fayetteville to sit down and go through things and it was immensely valuable so I’ll always be indebted to Bret.”

“Just a guy, he and I think a lot alike and we just started walking similar paths and we’ve known this day was coming right,” Bielema said. “As soon as I took the job here and as soon as he got the Kansas job, we talked about it.”

Illinois and Kansas kick at 6:30 Friday night here in Lawrence on ESPN2. The Jayhawks beat Missouri State in week one and are three point favorites over the Illini.

For even more Illinois coverage, tune into the Your Illini Nation Pregame Show live from Kansas. Join WCIA-3’s Bret Beherns and Jeremy Werner from Illini Inquirer at the stadium as they breakdown the game and what’s to come. Watch on our WCIA3 Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages. That coverage begins at about 4:45 tomorrow.

The Illini will look for their first non-conference road win since 2019, but that was against UConn, a group of five team. Illinois hasn’t beat a power five team on the road since 2007.