FACTS & STATS: Site: Memorial Stadium (60,670) — Champaign, Illinois.
Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Iowa 4-1, Illinois 4-1. Away Record:
Iowa 2-2, Illinois 0-4. Neutral Record: Iowa 0-0, Illinois 0-0. Conference
Record: Iowa 3-2, Illinois 1-4. Series Record: Illinois leads, 38-29-2.
GAME NOTES: For the first time since 2008, the Iowa Hawkeyes will take on the
Illinois Fighting Illini as the two meet up for a Big Ten Conference clash at
Iowa is already bowl eligible for the 13th time in the last 14 seasons.
However, the Hawkeyes got trampled at Minnesota last weekend, 51-14. This will
be their final road game as they will close out the regular season at home
against Wisconsin and Nebraska over the next two weeks.
Illinois should be well rested after getting a bye last weekend, although the
team has dropped four of its last five games. In their most recent contest,
the Fighting Illini were blown out in a 55-14 decision at Ohio State to fall
to 0-4 on the road this season. But they are 4-0 at home and can qualify for a
bowl by winning two of their final three games.
Illinois leads the all-time series with Iowa, 38-29-2.
The Hawkeyes scored a touchdown on their opening possession against Minnesota
and also found the end zone on their final possession. But in between those
scores, it was all Minnesota as the Golden Gophers jumped out to a 35-7
halftime lead and never looked back. Iowa turned the ball over three times and
also had a punt blocked during that disastrous first half. The Hawkeyes
finished with only 13 first downs and 205 yards of total offense. It was a
stark contrast from the previous week when they put up 48 points against
Northwestern after jumping out to a 24-0 lead.
Iowa leads the Big Ten in pass defense during league play with only 121.4
passing yards per game allowed. Minnesota entered last week’s matchup with the
worst passing attack in the league, but quarterback Mitch Leidner picked apart
the Hawkeyes’ secondary for an ultra-efficient 138 yards and four touchdowns
on 10-of-13 accuracy. All told, Iowa gave up 429 yards from scrimmage,
including 291 yards and three scores on the ground. Strong safety John
Lowdermilk led the way with a game-high 13 tackles in the loss, and he has a
team-best 71 stops to go along with two interceptions on the season.
The Illinois offense will get a boost this week with the return of starting
quarterback Wes Lunt, who missed the last three games with a broken fibula. At
the time of his injury, Lunt ranked in the top-20 in the nation in completions
per game (25.4, 10th), passing yards per game (313.8, 14th), passing
touchdowns (13, 17th), passing yards (1,569, 18th), completion percentage
(.665, 20th) and passing efficiency (154.8, 20th), and he was tied for fourth
in the FBS with 14 passing plays of 30 yards or more.
Against Ohio State, Aaron Bailey and Reilly O’Toole combined to complete just
13-of-27 passes for 137 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and three
sacks taken. However, Mike Dudek managed to break Arrelious Benn’s school
record for receiving yards by a freshman with his 56-yard catch in the first
quarter. Dudek has 707 receiving yards on 45 catches this season.
On the other side of the ball, the Fighting Illini continue to struggle as
they enter this week ranked 109th nationally in scoring defense (36.7 ppg),
112th in total defense (483.1 ypg) and 121st in rushing defense (262.8 ypg).
OSU scored almost at will two weeks ago, racking up 28 first downs and 545
yards of total offense in the process. Linebacker Mason Monheim had a game-
high 11 tackles (1.0 TFL) to go along with a forced fumble in the loss. He is
fourth in the Big Ten with a team-best 9.2 tackles per game.
The Fighting Illini have been a much different team on the road than at home
this season, and they will have had two weeks to prepare for this one. Look
for Iowa to come out hungry after that letdown against Minnesota, but the
return of Lunt should be enough to get Illinois back into the win column.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois 31, Iowa 27