The Iowa Hawkeyes are on the brink of a second Big Ten West division title in three years. Despite what’s been a thoroughly up and down roller coaster ride of a season, a win today clinches the West for the Hawkeyes and sends them to Indianapolis.
That may prove challenging, however, as the Hawkeyes play host to Illinois - a team that outmatched Iowa’s struggling offense a season ago to the tune of a 9-6 win in Champaign. The Illini come into the week on a two-game winning streak and like the rest of the division, save for Purdue, are tied for second place behind Iowa. A win today and Illinois is still alive for the West crown themselves.
A big part of their recent success has been a surging offense. A week ago, the Illini put up 48 points on the back of a ridiculous 500-yard passing performance by senior quarterback John Paddock Jr. But it won’t be Paddock who starts under center today as starter Luke Altmyer is set to return for Bret Bielema and the Illini.
It’s not all been good for Illinois in recent weeks, however. The Illini needed those 48 points to avoid a disaster against Indiana a week ago as their defense gave up 45 points to the Hoosiers.
That sort of porous defense might be just what the doctor ordered for Brian Ferentz and the Iowa offense. Despite the 400-yard outpouring from the Hawkeyes last week, Iowa is still firmly dead last nationally in total offense. They’ll need Deacon Hill to be a bit more consistent and the offense line to give running room to Leshon Williams, Jaz Patterson and Kaleb Johnson if they want to secure their spot in Indianapolis. That’s especially true if the loss of Cooper DeJean means the Hawkeye defense sees some lapses against the surging Illinois passing game.
As we countdown to kickoff, here’s everything you need to know about today’s matchup.
Date: Saturday, November 18th
Time: 2:30 pm CT
Matchup: Illinois Fighting Illini (5-5, 3-4) at Iowa Hawkeyes (8-2, 5-2)
Location: Kinnick Stadium- Iowa City, IA
Preliminary Weather Forecast: sunny with temps in the upper-50s, 5% chance of rain
DraftKings Sportsbook Line: Iowa -3, O/U 32.5
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Keep an eye out for the availability report, which is set to be published around 12:30 pm CT. Recall that’s a new item in the Big Ten this season with availability reported two hours before game time.