Illinois hosts Iowa under the lights this weekend, and our staff has some thoughts on how this game will go.
Ethan Parker: Illinois 27, Iowa 10
First off, Illinois has to win this game. Second, Illinois will win this game. With all the hype and energy that will be in the stadium come Saturday night, the Hawkeyes don’t have a chance against the Orange & Blue. I feel like if I had the ability to look through other universes, and try to find one that had Iowa winning this game, I would maybe find one. The Illini lose this game if they come out of the gate over-anxious and make too many mentally mistakes. If Tommy DeVito isn’t patient and is turning the ball over, Iowa will try to control time of possession with their slow-motion offense. But even then, I think our defense will pick up our slack. This is Illinois’ game to lose. See you Saturday Night!
Brandt Dolce: Illinois 34, Iowa 13
After a program-defining win in Madison, Bret Bielema has a chance to add depth to the definition. Iowa’s offense is severely inept, while the Illini defense leads the nation in PPG allowed. DC Ryan Walters is putting together a defense that could lead to a B1G West title in 2022. Illinois gets 6 sacks and holds Iowa under 50-yards rushing. Chase Brown continues his dominance, getting 100+ yards for the 7th-straight game. Sneaky Tommy Devito puts on his throwing shoes and gets 250 yards and throws for 2 TD’s and secures the ball. Four of the next five at home, including this week.
Time to start the hype bus…Illinois is in the driver’s seat in the West.
Matt Rejc: Illinois 28, Iowa 12
Iowa has a legitimately good defense to pair with a comically bad offense. That combination won’t take any team very far, but it should make for a closer matchup than Illinois’ blowout against the Badgers in Madison. I expect the game to be held within one score until late in the third quarter. At that point, the Illinois offense will start to dominate time of possession, which will wear down the Iowa defense until the floodgates open again for Chase Brown. Illinois’ star running back will record yet another +100 yard game, with the bulk of those yards coming in the fourth quarter. The win will solidify Illinois’ place as the leader in the West Division with a Homecoming matchup against Minnesota looming as the potential deciding game in the division race.
Kyle Tausk: Illinois 16, Iowa 10
Saturday night is going to be a battle of the Big Ten’s best defenses. I think my colleagues are being a little bold with their predictions of the Illini’s scoring total; this Iowa defense is fantastic in all areas and I think it’ll be really hard for Illinois to string long scoring drives together and run the ball as effectively as they have this year. With that being said, Iowa’s offense has been one of the worst units in the country thus far and I don’t think they’ll have much success against the Illini in that area. In the end, I think Illinois uses 3 field goals and a touchdown to take down the Hawkeyes at home in a game that stays close throughout thanks to high level play from both defenses.
Mihir Chavan: Illinois 24, Iowa 0
3 touchdowns and 1 field goal seems to be the recipe. Now for the score. Let me make my point here. Illinois has allowed teams into the redzone 6 times, tied for 1st. Illinois is also allowing 2 points per red zone opportunity. Not even a field goal. Let that sink in a bit. 2 points per opportunity in 6 attempts. Iowa is ranked 128th out of 131 FBS teams in red zone attempts. Only reaching the redzone 9 times in their opponents red zone, scoring in 6 of them. Yes 4 of those attempts have been touchdowns. 2 TDs were last week in garbage time against Michigan. Take those attempts and scores out, Iowa has reached the redzone 7 times and scored on 4 of them. Even for a team that prides itself in creating short yardage situations, it fails to even get into scoring opportunities. What this stat and Iowa’s box score tells me is that the Hawkeyes can’t score out of the redzone, and they rarely make it into the redzone. Illinois is playing lights out on defense right now and I don’t even think that Iowa is going to be able to score. The no TD’s at home stat stays alive and Illinois pitches a shut out at home against the Hawkeyes. I said what I said. Let the basketball rivalry start early this year.
Noah Cowell: Illinois 24, Iowa 16
People who are expecting a blowout and getting their hopes up insanely high need to remember this is Illinois football, and they could very easily lose this game. In the past after rare big wins, Illinois teams have disappointed in following weeks. For example, take last year’s team, beating Penn State in 9 OT then losing at home to Rutgers the next week. However, this team seems to be different so far, but this weekend won’t exactly be a cakewalk. Everyone is underestimating Iowa because of their lack of offensive legitimacy, but this is a team that can take advantage of its defenses ability to force mistakes. We saw early in the season the Illini’s tendency to make costly mistakes against Indiana, and this Iowa team is better than the Hoosiers are. I believe Iowa starts off strong, but the star Illinois defense limits their offensive abilities to 3 field goals after an early touchdown. Chase Brown will get going once DeVito settles in like he did in Madison last weekend, and the Illini will get a last minute stop to prevent the Hawkeyes from scoring to tie the game.
Alex Orr: Iowa 17, Illinois 14
The fun has to stop sometime, right? And what time would be more Illini than at home with a packed house for the first time in years in a butt-ugly slogfest against a team we don’t like much and haven’t beat in 14 years? Anyway, the Illini offense won’t get going, and Iowa gets some points off their strong defense and special teams to put them over the top. Yes, I know I’m a pessimist with this, but every Illini fan seems to be buying in HARD, and that honestly terrifies me.
Will Charlton: Illinois 21, Iowa 9
Oh yah, a good ol’ fashion slug fest. Both teams score three times, but the difference is Illinois scores three touchdowns while Iowa can’t find the end zone once and the streak of not allowing a touchdown at Memorial Stadium this season continues. Expect this game to be the first this season Chase Brown doesn’t go for over 100 yards though. This game is going to be won by Tommy DeVito making big plays on third downs. The defense will do their job against this lackluster offense and will cause a turnover or maybe two, but DeVito will be the X-Factor that gives the Illini their first win over the Hawkeyes since 2008. It’ll probably be like 14-6 at halftime with the game not out of reach and Iowa might kick that third field goal before another Illinois touchdown but I think 21-9 is very realistic for this matchup. Also, if the Illini win they should be ranked next week. So stakes are indeed VERY high, ILL.
Drew Pastorek: Illinois 20, Iowa 10
I’ll reiterate what Ethan said at the top – the Fighting Illini have to win this game. Not because of standings or bowl projections or the anticipated large throng of orange-clad fans. No, Illinois has to win this game because I live in Iowa surrounded by Hawkeye fans, and if Illinois loses to THIS Iowa team I’m never going to be able to show my face again. It can’t happen. Let me puff MY chest out, for once!
Anyway, I’m expecting a slugfest – Iowa isn’t just going to shrivel away and die like Wisconsin did last week. But the Hawkeyes offense is grotesque, an affront to modern college football. I’d genuinely be shocked if they put up 200 yards against Ryan Walters’ defense. Iowa will probably get some stupid 12-yard TD drive because of a pick or fumble and barely cross midfield again. In years past that may have been enough. But the Illini defense is ferocious and the offense just needs to do the basic things well to propel them to victory. Give Chase Brown 60 carries if you have to, I don’t care. I need this victory for my soul.