When and where: November 23, 2019, Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA, 12:00 PM ET
The Illinois Fighting Illini will be looking for their second Big Ten Conference upset of the season when going on the road to take on the No. 20-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes. After falling in a heartbreaking loss to Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes responded in a big way by upending the previously unbeaten Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Fighting Illini, on the other hand, are coming off four consecutive wins over Wisconsin, Purdue, Rutgers and Michigan State. Can they upset Iowa the same way they did Wisconsin a few weeks ago?
Fighting Illini are rolling through the conferenceIllinois turned an ugly 0-3 conference start into winning four consecutive Big Ten games, including a stunning 24-23 win over No. 6 Wisconsin at the time. They also recently dropped 37 points in an impressive road victory over Michigan State.
Who are these Fighting Illini? What happened to the team that lost to Eastern Michigan and couldn’t close the deal against Nebraska?
Coach Lovie Smith has tapped into something special late in the season as Illinois prepares for a road trip to Kinnick Stadium. They’ll have their work cut out for them in figuring out a way to crack the Hawkeyes’ iron-clad defense. It’s a unit holding opposing offenses to 12.4 points per game. Iowa ranks in the bottom-half of the conference in scoring offense and long scrimmage plays due to a lack of explosiveness on the offensive side of the ball.
That alone gives the Fighting Illini a chance to stick around in this game. Of course, their defense needs to be better than it was against Michigan State. They gave up 34 points and 526 yards of total offense on the road. This game will be over quickly if they experience a similar collapse against Iowa. Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters will be behind center of an offensive line that has allowed the most sacks in the conference. The team is also dead last in third-down conversions.
Illinois will have to fight for every yard and inch in this match-up. They might have to do so without receiver Dominic Stampley, defensive lineman Jamal Woods and linebackers Jake Hansen and Delano Ware. All four players are questionable with injury designations for Saturday’s game.
Iowa stuns Minnesota in their biggest win of the seasonIowa played the role of spoiler in last week’s win over No. 8 Minnesota. Not only were they the first team to hand the Golden Gophers a loss this season, but they also ruined their long-shot bid of earning a spot in the playoffs. Add that game to the long list of heartbreaks opposing teams have experienced at Kinnick Stadium.
Iowa hopes to break another heart on Saturday when receiving a visit from Illinois. Quarterback Nate Stanley hasn’t done much to really set himself apart. He is operating with a better completion percentage (60.7) than he had a year ago and limiting the turnovers, but there really is no pop to the offense. The Hawkeyes have the fourth-worst scoring offense in the conference, and they haven’t been able to consistently move the ball on the ground or through the air.
They are an offense with no special traits.
All hope is tied up in the defense that is holding the opposition to 303.1 total yards per game. Given Illinois’ struggles protecting the quarterback, you can rest assured Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa, who already has seven sacks on the season, will be in full-on predator mode hunting for Peters. Illinois has suddenly sprung to life over the last four games, and they should be taken seriously on Saturday.
The top supporting trends for this game, found on Covers.com, are:
- Fighting Illini are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games following an ATS win.
- Fighting Illini are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games overall.
- Fighting Illini are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games after allowing more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game.
- Fighting Illini are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games on field turf.
- Hawkeyes are 2-5-1 ATS in their last 8 games after allowing more than 280 yards passing in their previous game.
- Home team is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 head-to-head meetings.