2016 Final S&P+ Rk: 30
2016 Off. Rk: 78
2016 Def. Rk: 15
You read the title right. Illinois has not won a game in Kinnick Stadium since 1999. This season, the Fighting Illini travel to Iowa City on October 7th for their second conference game of the season. Iowa is the only team the Illini have not defeated on the road within the last decade (with the exception to the three recent conference expansion teams), despite coming close in countless attempts.
In their last trip to Kinnick, the Illini hung with the 22nd ranked Hawkeyes for much of the game despite having two key starters out with injuries in the game. But a late fumble ultimately gave Iowa a chip-shot field goal to seal a 29-20 win in 2015. Last year, the Hawkeyes shutout Illinois in a 28-0 rout in Memorial Stadium.
While this year’s matchup favors Iowa, there are some key pieces that Head Coach Kirk Ferentz will not have in his arsenal. The Hawkeyes will start a brand new Quarterback under center with sophomore Nate Stanley being the likely starter under center. Stanley has only completed 5 passes in 9 attempts during his time at Iowa, and did not see a lot of playing time while CJ Beathard was starting. Stanley’s favorite target will undoubtedly be redshirt senior Matt VandeBerg, who is returning after a foot injury from last season. Iowa’s offense will revolve mostly around redshirt senior halfback Akrum Wadley, as Wadley co-started in the backfield for the Hawkeyes last season.
As for Iowa’s defense, they will not have cornerbacks Desmond King and Greg Mabin in defend against the pass. This will put a dent in their 16th ranked pass defense from last season, and open up a spot for teams to throw the ball against the new starting corners. The run defense will improve a little bit from last season, as the linebacker corps return two of three starters and will cause some trouble at the line of scrimmage.
If Illinois is going to win their first game in Iowa city since 1999, Akrum Wadley must be stopped, the new cornerbacks must be attacked, and Illinois can’t turn the ball over. Do that, and the Illini will return home with a victory.