Stephen Cohn: Iowa 37, Illinois 20
Illinois’ incredible streak over the past month of covering probably dies out this Saturday in Iowa City. That doesn’t mean the great season has to, though! Illinois can still be a very good team and lose in a place most teams lose in! As long as the Illini beat Northwestern and play competitively against the Hawkeyes, it’s all good.
Michael Berns: Iowa 31, Illinois 21
The key to this matchup is when Illinois has the ball — Illinois’ O-line vs Iowa’s D-line. The Illini O-line has held up well all season, and the Michigan State game two weeks ago was a nice litmus test — but this Hawkeyes D-line is going to be tough to handle. They’re fast and they’re productive. Iowa had six sacks against Minnesota last week and they really get after the quarterback once they settle and shut down the run game. The Illinois D continues its country-leading turnover causing ways, but it’s not quite enough.
Matt Rejc: Illinois 24, Iowa 21
Even before the season started, this was always going to be one of the toughest matchups on the 2019 slate for the Illini. The Hawkeyes boast a talented roster and Iowa City is always a difficult place to play. That said, Illinois is coming off a bye week and will hopefully see the return of some previously injured players. Iowa is coming off an emotional victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers, and could be due for a letdown this week against a team they defeated in historic fashion on the road last season. This game could go either way, but I think Illinois’ ability to generate turnovers will prevent the Hawkeye offense from taking over the game and simultaneously give Brandon Peters and the Illini offense chances to score easily.
Drew Pastorek: Illinois 27, Iowa 23
To me, the most shocking part about last year’s matchup was that Iowa -- a team that rarely blows out B1G opponents -- completely dismantled Illinois. Ohio State winning 63-0? Sure. Michigan or Penn State? Conceivable. IOWA? Embarrassing. The Hawkeyes’ defense is very solid, but their offense has been very inconsistent. The Illini defense gives up a ton of yardage but forces turnovers better than any unit in the country. If Illinois can continue to create takeaways -- especially early in the game -- they’ll have an excellent shot at winning.
Illini fans are likely still having nightmares about A.J. Epenesa, who registered 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble last week against Minnesota. Illinois’ o-line will get a workout trying to keep him away from Brandon Peters -- but, hey...this will be the last time you have to play him! Offensively, I’m expecting a similar gameplan from both squads. Each team loves to run the football and pass when necessary. But I think Josh Imatorbhebhe will be the x-factor. The Hawkeyes will likely be smarter than Michigan State and NOT try to cover Bhebhe one-one-one, especially late.
Iowa is a fine football team -- not excellent, not terrible -- and has been for most of the Kirk Ferentz era. Kinnick Stadium is one of the toughest places to play in college football, and most of the current Illini weren’t even born the last time Illinois won there. But Lovie’s bunch is the most confident they’ve ever been. Iowa just ruined Minnesota’s undefeated season and plays Nebraska on Black Friday. I just don’t know if the Hawkeyes will be as focused on this game as those other two.
Kyle Huisinga: Iowa 24, Illinois 21
I really want to pick Illinois in an upset. I just don’t see Iowa overlooking the Illini (Wisconsin) or collapsing in the second half (Michigan State). Illinois is greatly improved, and I must eat crow for picking them to be 5-7 this season. The players have shown the effort all season, but the execution and playcalling has improved dramatically over the last four weeks. The light has flipped on for this team. Yet, Iowa is one of the most formidable opponents at home for the Illini. Ever. They haven’t won in Iowa City in 20 years! I don’t think that changes this season. It definitely should not be a 63-0 shellacking, however. This will be a hard fought slugfest. Thankfully, Iowa doesn’t run a spread option offense. And the Illini should be healing up a bit after a bye. Finally, the gap has closed, and the Illini are on equal footing with this team. The home field advantage makes the slight advantage.
Brad Repplinger: Iowa 26, Illinois 13
The last game felt like the one where Illinois would eventually fall back to earth. How many times have we as fans looked at a legitimately winnable game and thought, “they could seriously win that game” only to have the rug pulled out from under our feet? For the sake of our sanity and collective football souls, that didn’t happen (enter bowl game celebrations and whatnot).
This week is the second road game in a row where we look at the opponent and think, “Illinois could actually win that game.” But once again I find myself prepared to have the rug pulled out from under me against a team that is not very well liked among the Illinois football fan community. The turnover ratio HAS to level back out, right? The offense is going to sputter again in the first half, right? This team and this season has to come back to expectations and reality...right?
Keep it close, don’t do stupid things, stay healthy, and get the heck out of that godforsaken stadium in one piece (if you’re going to the game, stay out of East and West main halls...it’s as spacious as a can of sardines). After all, the Illini can’t shock us all AGAIN...can they?
Thumpasaurus: Iowa 33, Illinois 10
Illinois has been very good at capitalizing on opponents’ mistakes. Unfortunately, Iowa makes fewer mistakes than any team in the Big Ten except maybe Ohio State. They’re the least penalized team in the league, and they’ve only turned the ball over 9 times in their 10 games. That’s tied with Ohio State for least in the conference and is one of the best marks in America. Illinois is not good enough to beat Iowa on the road without help from turnovers, and Iowa knows this and will make protecting the ball a priority. They won’t overlook the Illini like Wisconsin did, and they’ll be ready with a sound gameplan.
The Hawkeyes front seven is going to create a challenge for the Illini on the ground, and AJ Epenesa is a force of nature that will need a lot of attention if Brandon Peters is going to stay on his feet long enough to find Josh Imatorbhebhe down the field. Iowa has a pair of fairly good receivers, but Smith and Smith-Marsette are not good enough to overmatch the Hobbs/Adams corner tandem they’ll be up against. Iowa will look to win this game by repeatedly pounding the stretch play and challenging the edges of our defense, and keeping them honest by taking deep shots over the middle. Illinois could win this one, but I think Iowa is capable of doing what it takes to keep Illinois out of the game.