Iowa run offense vs. Illinois run defense: Fred Russell has run for 916 yards and three touchdowns. Iowa's starting tailback averages 4.7 yards per carry. Jermelle Lewis might be ready to play a little on Saturday, but I would look for Marcus Schnoor to handle the back-up duty in an effort to keep Lewis as healthy as possible for next Saturday's showdown at Purdue.
Two weeks ago, Chris Perry had 140 yards rushing and three TDs against the Illini as Michigan ran for 275 yards in a 56-14 rout. Illinois doesn't have a very good run defense. Advantage: IOWA.
Iowa pass offense vs. Illinois pass defense: Nathan Chandler continues to be steady—although not spectacular—during his one season of running Iowa's offense. Not only does Chandler have a good passer rating (126.7), but he has a very good record (6-2) at this point. The Hawkeyes' top receiver, Maurice Brown, is healthy enough to play a little on Saturday, but I would expect his action to be extremely limited with the idea of getting him into the game plan for the Boilermakers.
Last week, Asad Abdul-Khaliq was 12 of 15 for 237 yards and three TDs in Minnesota's 36-10 victory over Illinois. Illinois doesn't have a very good pass defense. Advantage: IOWA.
Illinois run offense vs. Iowa run defense: Pierre Thomas, a freshman tailback, has 233 yards rushing in limited action this season. Thomas is averaging 5.4 yards per carry.
Iowa is giving up next-to-nothing on the ground against just about every opponent. If opposing running backs are lucky enough to get past guys like Howard Hodges and Jared Clauss, they will quickly run into Chad Greenway, Grant Steen or Abdul Hodge. That is, if Bob Sanders doesn't get to them first. Advantage: IOWA.
Illinois pass offense vs. Iowa pass defense: In two games this season, Dustin Ward has a 127.4 QB rating. He's thrown for 284 yards and a touchdown. Plus, my guess is that he pays his cable bill on time.
On the other side of the ball, Matt "The Tazmanian Devil" Roth is an Illinois native who will probably become very familiar with Ward before the day is done. The Hawks won't run anything revolutionary against Illinois. But, they will be as tough as usual. Look for Sean Considine, Antwan Allen and Sanders to each have an interception on Saturday. Advantage: IOWA.
Special Teams: I'm still waiting for Nate Kaeding to nail a 55-plus-yard field goal. Maybe this is the week. Regardless, I look for the Hawkeyes' special teams to fare very well. Expect to see a punt return—or a kick return—for a score. Advantage: IOWA.
Coaching: Kirk Ferentz has turned the Hawkeye program around. He was named the National Coach of the Year in 2002. On the other sideline, Ron Turner is 39-50 in his seventh season at Illinois. The Illini are 0-5 in the Big Ten this season, with an average defeat by the score of 44 to 14. Yikes. Advantage: IOWA.
Intangibles: Both teams will want to stay healthy as they each have HUUUUUGE games next week in Indiana. The Hawkeyes will travel to Purdue for a game that will have a very large impact on the Big Ten race and bowl bids. Illinois will travel to Indiana for a game that one of these teams HAS to win. Right now, the Illini are 0-5 in the conference and the Hoosiers are 0-4. Advantage: IOWA.
PREDICTION: The Hawkeyes will execute pretty well against an overmatched Illinois squad. Chandler won't have to throw very often as Iowa will move the ball at will on the ground. Lewis and Brown will play very sparingly for the Hawks. Defensively, Roth and Sanders will have big days as Iowa's defense will provide another impressive showing. FINAL: IOWA 34, Illinois 9.
Jon Miller's Prediction: Iowa 31, Illinois 3
(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)