Hawkeyes host Illini needing to win one of their last two games to clinch spot in Big Ten title game
Illinois (5-5, 3-4 Big Ten) at Iowa (8-2, 5-2, No. 16 CFP), Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (FS1)
Line: Iowa by 3 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Series record: Illinois leads 39-37-2.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Iowa clinched a share of the Big Ten West title last week and would lock up a spot in the conference championship game with a win against the Illini or against Nebraska next week. Illinois will be bowl-eligible two years in a row for the first time since 2011 if it beats Iowa a second straight time.
Illinois pass offense vs. Iowa pass defense. The Illini average 261 yards passing per game to rank third in the Big Ten, and they averaged 21.1 yards per reception against Indiana last week with backup quarterback John Paddock. Iowa has an elite pass defender in Sebastian Castro but took a big blow this week when Cooper DeJean suffered a season-ending leg injury in practice.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Illinois: QB Luke Altmyer was named the starter after missing last week’s overtime win over Indiana because of injury. Backup John Paddock passed for 507 yards against the Hoosiers a week after coming in cold to lead the winning drive against Wisconsin. Bret Bielema adheres to the axiom that a player shouldn’t lose his starting job because of an injury, but his decision shocked a vocal portion of the fan base.
Iowa: DE Joe Evans has 23 career sacks, tied for seventh in program history, and this appears to be a matchup that suits him. The way the Hawkeyes have shut down the run the past five games, they should have ample opportunity to crank up the pass rush against an opponent that has thrown an average of 35 times the last two weeks and given up 37 sacks for the season.
FACTS & FIGURES
Iowa has won 16 of its last 17 November games. … The Hawkeyes have allowed one touchdown over the last 16 quarters. … Bielema’s 12 Big Ten wins in his first three seasons at Illinois are the most since Lou Tepper won 13 from 1992-94. … Four of Illinois’ five wins have come in the final minute of regulation or in overtime. … The Illini’s 48 points and 662 yards against Indiana last week were their most since a 2018 win over Minnesota.
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