Consistency, or more precisely a lack of it, is the main concern for Iowa. And the inconsistency in results (alternating winning and losing in the last four games) directly relates to up and down play by units throughout the team. One week, the offense clicks and falls flat the next. The defense shuts down the opposition on a given Saturday only to be gashed the following one. Special teams feast and then fall flat. It's hard to point to any position and say that's the strength of the team. And that's a bad sign when you're three fourths of the way through the season.
2. How much of an effect will last week's blowout loss against Minnesota have on this team and what sort of response do you expect from the players and coaches?
That's the million dollar question. If Iowa fans are searching for hope, they don't have to reach far back into history. Maryland handled the Hawkeyes easier than the 38-31 final score might indicate before they rebounded to thrash Northwestern, 48-7. To that point, the players and coaches have shown resiliency this fall. Personally, I don't think this group will let the Gophers beat it twice but it's certainly shown enough cracks to drop this game against a hungry Illini team.
3. Iowa, traditionally more of a run-oriented team, has been putting the ball in the air a lot this season, but will that change against a still-struggling Illinois run defense?
Iowa's inconsistency in rushing the football hasn't resulted from a lack of trying. The Hawkeyes have pushed the issue on the ground but teams have loaded up to stop it and force them to beat them through the air. Iowa also fell behind at Maryland and Minnesota and were obligated to throw the ball. The line was expected to the a strength of this team but might be the biggest disappointment. I'd expect it to take it upon itself to pave the way to victory on Saturday.
4. Mark Weisman has 14 touchdowns on the season. Is his power running style going to be a problem for an Illinois run defense that's been struggling with tackling much of this season?
Weisman gains a lot of tough yards but it's easy for the defense to find him. He hits the hole, looks to run people over and doesn't make a lot of guys miss unless they choose to arm tackle. Stopping Weisman comes down to filling the gaps and wrapping up. If he gets to the second and third level with a head of steam, he's a load to bring down. When things go well, the Hawkeyes can complement Weisman with quicker backs, Jordan Canzeri and Akrum Wadley. Damon Bullock serves as the third-down back and has delivered some big plays in the passing game.
5. Iowa has a talented interior duo on the defensive line in Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat. How much of an impact do you expect those two to have with Lunt back at the helm and will Illinois be able to exploit other areas of the defense to evade them?
When the defense is going well, Davis and Trinca-Pasat are leading the way. They're disruptive and physical. Opponents understand that and have countered by running away from them and doubling Davis. The Hawkeyes have been susceptible on the edge and suspect at linebacker. If an offense decides to take it at the tackles, its feeding into Iowa's biggest strength. It makes much more sense to scheme away from that dynamic duo.