Before that team up north became the main and long hated rival of the Buckeyes, believe it or not, that title belonged to the Fighting Illini of Illinois. The first game was played way back in 1902 and ended in a 0-0 tie. The Fighting Illini would dominate the series early on. Things would get interesting in the “ROARING TWENTIES.” The rivalry would take a turn and the stakes would be upped in 1925 when both schools’ junior societies, Bucket and dipper(OSU) and Atius-Sachem(Illinois), decided that both teams should play for a trophy. The twist about said trophy was that a live turtle was picked to represent the longevity of the rivalry. Thus, “ILLIBUCK” was born.
Sadly, Illibuck would not see the rivalry progress as the turtle would pass away two years later in 1927 after making an escape from the Illinois fraternity house bathtub. To avoid another heartbreaking incident, both schools again decided to construct a wooden replica turtle in Illibuck’s likeness. The winner has received the turtle ever since.
When it comes to the Big Ten rivalries, The Illibuck Trophy is the second oldest trophy behind the “LITTLE BROWN JUG” that is passed between TTUN ( I REFUSE to say the M-word) and Minnesota. The weird part about this rivalry is that Illibuck isn’t given to the winning team until half time of the next year’s game.
The rivalry has not been the same since the Buckeyes decided to make TTUN their final game of the regular season, but to this writer, Illibuck is still one of the most entertaining and often overlooked rivalries in the Big Ten and college football in general.
Illibuck hasn’t left the Buckeyes possession since 2008, but don’t think for a second that the Illini won’t put up a fight for him. They last won the trophy back in 2007 when Juice Williams and the Fighting Illini shocked the then #1 ranked Buckeyes in Columbus on Senior Day. Truthfully, this rivalry is exciting to those in the know, but because the rivalry with TTUN pretty much controls college football’s national title implications, the outside world gives that game more notice.
This weekend Illibuck will see sunlight again as the Buckeyes and Illini will step on the field in Champaign for the 104th time in the rivalry’s history. The Buckeyes have won the last nine meetings. The most recent being 2017 when the Buckeyes destroyed the Illini, 52-14, in Columbus. The way head coach Ryan Day has the Buckeyes looking, don’t expect Illibuck to change his address any time soon.
FINAL PREDICTION: Buckeyes dominate and keep Illibuck, but the soul of Illibuck smiles once more over the Illini and Buckeyes and watches in excitement. 50-14, BUCKEYES!!