Now the Hawkeyes and Illini are set to face off in the home finale for Iowa as Illinois returns to action from their bye week. The Hawkeyes are looking to extend their winning streak in this rivalry to eight games while Illinois is looking to keep hopes for a bowl game alive.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Hawkeyes are favored by 13 points in a game that’s got an over/under of 38.5 total points. Iowa has gotten over that mark twice in their last five games while Illinois has been under in each of their last seven matchups.
As for The Pants, we’re all on the Hawks this week. That is, we’re taking Iowa on the moneyline but just two of our staffers think the Hawkeyes will cover the double-digit spread. Collectively, we’re calling for a final score of Iowa 26, Illinois 14. That puts us on the over by a point and a half and has us taking Illinois with the points, but just barely.
Here’s a look at the staff’s individual predictions for Iowa’s matchup with Illinois.
This one is concerning to me. Iowa faces two coaching staffs they really dislike in a three week span and then smack in the middle of that we get Illinois, a team I don’t think this coaching staff has thought about in half a decade.
Yet, this isn’t any old Illinois team. This is now Bert Bielema’s Illinois team. And despite Bert missing this week due to COVID, this group has been playing solid defense and already has a couple nice winds in a year that should be a reset season.
I expect more of the same from Iowa in this one. Trying to establish the run to no avail. Facing a team that can assert themselves in the running game to the point we see a tight one down to the wire. Ultimately, I think Alex Padilla adds enough to this offense to outscore the Illini and I trust Phil Parker to button things up in the second half.
Iowa 24, Illinois 16
I have written before that I’m a fan of Bret Bielema. Barry Alvarez (thank you, Coach Fry) resurrected Wisconsin football, but Bielema maintained it. That’s no small accomplishment. Ask Scotty Frost. Biels ventured off to SEC territory but he’s back where he belongs. Bielema is an excellent Big Ten football coach. He understands that you win up front. Illinois is also a recruiting hotbed. You know that the guy with the Tigerhawk tattoo wants to bite the hand that fed him. Not this year, but this is going to be a tough test for the Hawks while he is there. The Gophers ran the ball well against us. Our tackling has been suspect the last two weeks. Biels’ will try to play slobberknocker football. Hopefully Brian/Kirk Ferentz take the training wheels off Padilla and our offense and we go at the Illini for four quarters. If so, Hawks win convincingly. Big if, but we can dream, can’t we?!?!
Hawks 30, Illinois 13
Is Illinois a particularly good football team? No, but that certainly didn’t stop them from scoring road upsets against #7 Penn State and #20 Minnesota this season. Illinois’ formula for getting its third upset against a ranked team is simple: run the ball effectively, control the clock, and force turnovers or three-and-outs whenever Iowa has the ball. However, Iowa’s path to victory is far easier: stop the running game, stop the Illini.
Iowa’s offense continues to stabilize under Alex Padilla, Tyler Goodson goes for over 100 yards for the third time this season, and Iowa keeps the dream of a Big Ten Championship alive.
Iowa 27, Illinois 13
For the fourth consecutive game, Iowa faces a team with a solid running game, but major issues through the air. I was amazed to look back and find out Iowa’s 27 points against Minnesota was the second most they had given up this season.
Once again, I expect possessions to be a premium with quarters ending quickly. Iowa will need to jump out with some offense early to keep Illinois from running the ball 50 times while attempting to possess the entire clock in the most boring of Big Ten West fashions. But this week Padilla and company will stick with enough play action gains while Goodson breaks off two long touchdowns.
Iowa 28 - Illinois 16
I think Bret Bielema is worth a touchdown, maybe more. They say the first thing teams forget about when they fall behind is the run game and if Iowa is able to get up early on the Illini, that could create some consternation without the steady hands of Bielema guiding them to run as much as possible.
Even without him, I think Illinois has a decent-enough defense (16.4 PPG over the last 7) to keep it close and Iowa hasn’t yet shown an ability to break open a big against a team demonstrating competency on that side of the ball.
But Iowa finds enough in a game that is more comfortable than the final score.
Iowa 20, Illinois 11
I was fully committed to my bit of picking coaches who have a history of success over Kirk Ferentz, but now that Bert came down with the cooties, and after scanning the Illinois coaching staff, I can say with confidence that Kirk Ferentz is undefeated against whoever will take the sideline opposite he.
Iowa 27, Illinois 17
Those are our predictions. What’s your take on this week’s matchup? Can Iowa make it eight straight against the Illini? Let us know your prediction in the comments!