The Fighting Illini haven't been very good this year. They are 3-7 overall and 2-5 in the Big Ten with wins over Michigan State and Rutgers. That's not exactly something to write home about.
The Hawkeyes are underachieving given the expectations they had heading into this season. They currently sit at 6-4 overall and 4-3 within the conference. They got back on track a bit after beating a national title contender in the Michigan Wolverines, but I thought they still had some holes on Saturday night.
Largely the defense, special teams, and Akrum Wadley (with help from that big offensive line) won Iowa that game. Iowa got on the board with that safety that was forced by Ron Coluzzi and Jaleel Johnson. Then they rode Akrum Wadley all the way to pay dirt for their lone touchdown on the night. The rest of the scores were field goals and then seeing if Iowa's defense could bottle up the Michigan offense, which they did.
The passing game only totaled 66 yards and 52 went to Wadley. The Hawkeyes made themselves a bit one dimensional so the pass game needs to show up this Saturday to prevent from Illinois really stacking the box.
A lot of times after a big win like Iowa had last week we can see a little bit of a hangover. So this week's fact or fiction is simple.
Iowa lets Illinois hang around on Saturday, fact or fiction?
Fact. The win over Michigan was a great one for Iowa. But let's not forget they only defeated Rutgers and Minnesota by seven points, and fell at home to both North Dakota State and Northwestern. The only whipping they've put on anyone this year within the conference was Purdue on the road but even that margin of victory narrowed significantly before the final whistle.
Then look at last year's 12-0 regular season. There were very few decisive wins during that run as well. They allowed all of Iowa State, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Nebraska to hang around. Yes, even last year the Hawkeyes only defeated the Illini 29-20. I'd say that the odds of it being just as close this year are pretty high. It's also a drastic change of scenery, environment and energy in addition to being plagued by injuries and due for somewhat of an emotional letdown.
I'm going to say Fiction. The Hawkeyes have a lot of confidence coming out of that game last Saturday. They knocked off one of the best teams in the country and their defense looked elite in doing so. Illinois gets their QB back, but he hasn't played in several weeks so who knows how sharp he'll even be. Their leading receiver has been banged up, so the passing game may be nonexistent for the Illini.
Iowa stacked up nicely against Michigan's run defense last week and should do the same thing this week in Champaign. Right now, Wadley doesn't look like he can be stopped. He torched the Big Ten's best run defense for 115 yards on 23 carries so who knows what he'll do against Illinois if he receives the same workload.
The Illini have one of the worst pass defenses in the conference so I'd expect C.J. Beathard to get some confidence back and find guys like Riley McCarron and Jerminic Smith after the Iowa offense has established the run up front.
I like the Hawkeyes to take care of Illinois early on this Saturday.