Iowa-Illinois Preview and Prediction

There is nothing like a home game in Kinnick Stadium to cure what ails a struggling Iowa offense. The next best thing is a road game at Illinois, and that is where your Top 25 Iowa Hawkeyes play this weekend (11:00am, ESPN-Plus). There are plenty of good seats remaining for this contest in Champaign, giving Iowa fans a chance to pack 'Kinnick East' with plenty of black and gold on Illinois' homecoming. But don't be tricked into thinking it will be easy, all joking aside.


Iowa vs. Illinois.

What does that mean to you, Hawkeye fan?

For me, the images come crashing in, and they mostly pertain to basketball, with a few football memories mixed in.

Some of the things I think of are:

- Nick Bell running wild in Champaign against a top 10 Illinois team in 1990, propelling Iowa to a Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl bid.
- Tim Douglass kicking three 50-yard plus field goals in Champagin in Iowa's 37-14 win in 1998, including his school-record 58-yarder.
- Bob Sanders' one and only touchdown of his career came against Illinois last year
- Wade Lookingbill's three-point bank shot to beat Illinois….hold on…that can wait a few months.

While Iowa and Illinois fans will tell you that the bitterness that is a part of the basketball rivalry really doesn't carry over to the gridiron, time was when the nastiness between the fans of the two schools was born out of a football game.

The year was 1952 and the teams were playing in Iowa City.

Illinois quarterback Billy O'Connell was on his way to setting Big Ten records of 22 pass completions and 306 passing yards in the game. Iowa coach Forest Evashevski protested a penalty late in the game, actually coming out on the field of play, much like Jim Tressel did in Iowa City two weeks ago. The only difference was that Evashevski was flagged for 15-yards for his actions.

It was at that point that the Iowa student section began throwing fruit onto the field at Illinois players and officials. One official was hit by a produce projectile.

After the game, and Illinois player punched a Hawkeye player and broke his jaw.

Just as was the case with the Iowa-Iowa State series, the teams did not meet again until 1967, due to those hostilities.

Illinois leads the all time series 25-27-2, but since 1981, the season I began watching Iowa football and also the point in time where Iowa became good again, Iowa holds a narrow 10-9 advantage.

If you look at the scoring totals for both teams in those 19 games, you also have a close shave: Iowa is averaging 21.8 points per game and Illinois 23.0 points per game over their last 19 meetings.

However, what you find is each team trading blowout wins that just happen to add up to what looks close games.

Illinois won 33-0 in 1983, Iowa won 59-0 in 1985. There have been scores like 31-7, 54-28, 49-3, 47-7, 38-10, 37-14, 26-7, 40-24, 31-0 and 41-10.

I guess it's been rare when both teams were playing at a similar level.

Heading into tomorrow's game, this one might be shaping up like so many of those games over the last 23 years, at least on paper. And for those of you that waded through last week's Prediction and Preview, you know that's why they play the games.

After that lengthy exercise in futility and paralysis via analysis, I am not in the mood to look up the most obscure statistic and break down Illinois' opponent's opponent's against the run.

There is one story line that I do feel is worth noting, and that for the second straight week, Iowa will be playing against a team that has some major incentive to do well.

Illinois head coach Ron Turner is what you might call embattled, under fire, on the hot seat, in the cross hairs, etc.

The Illini are not yet three full seasons removed from a Big Ten title and trip to the Sugar Bowl, but they are 0-5 in Big Ten play and going nowhere fast for the second straight season. They had a losing record the year following their title and things have just gotten worse since then.

Two weeks ago at home against Michigan, the Illini played a solid game, yet the TV announcers were talking about the thousands of empty seats in Memorial Stadium, while an estimated 10,000 Illini fans were pouring into Assembly Hall to watch the Illini Men's Hoops team kick off their season with an open practice.

Such is life in Champaign. Once the leaves begin to turn colors, nearly all of their thoughts are consumed with Big Ten basketball titles, and many of them might not even be able to tell you the final record of the football team come late November.

Yet Ron Turner's football players have a chance this week to show that they have heart and character. From an outsider's perspective, it would appear that Turner's players like him as their coach.

Though they were waxed last week at Minnesota by the score of 45-0, they played Michigan more than tough the week before. They also lost at home to Purdue by a score of 38-30 on ‘Salute to Agriculture Day'. PERSONAL NOTE: I never, ever want to hear Illini fans try and insult Iowa with corn or hog comments. Do the easy research on your state, a great state that I called home for a long time, I might add, and you will find that outside of Chicago, which is the majority of your square mileage, Illinois and Iowa are pretty much identical. And no, Champaign is not a suburb of Chicago. And is there a campus that has such a unique smell, thanks to your ag fields? We are the same people, whether you want to admit it or not. Some of us drive Fords, and some of us drive Chevy…wait…that is for another month.END PERSONAL NOTE

They gave Michigan State all the Spartans wanted at East Lansing, falling 38-25.

Now, the Hawkeyes come calling on Illinois' homecoming game at the school that gave us that over hyped tradition.

All joking aside, I am not so sure that this game will be the blowout that many of my Hawkeye bretheren believe that it will be. Illinois can be dangerous on offense if they get hot. Their defense has left something to be desired, but after Iowa's 6-4 win in Happy Valley, it's not as if you can bank on the Hawks to throw up a lot of points, either.

From the ‘Something's Gotta Give' department, Illinois is horrible at stopping the run and Iowa is equally atrocious at running the football, this year.

This game is going to come down to the play of the quarterbacks. Iowa's Drew Tate has not been very good on the road this year. He is 46-82 (56.1-percent) for 440 yards (146.6/game) and four interceptions to two touchdowns. He has also been sacked 11 times on the road.

Compare those stats to his home numbers of 80 of 119 (67.2-percent) for 1,027 yards (256.8/game) and three interceptions to seven touchdowns, and you know that you have a young quarterback in his first year as a starter.

Illinois recently benched Jon Beutjer in favor of the future; Brad Bower and Chris Pazan threw every pass last week.

The good news for Tate and Iowa is that Illinois' defense is not that of Michigan or Penn State, and Memorial Stadium does not seat 108,000-plus fans. Capacity is listed at 70,904, a few hundred more than Kinnick seats.

The big difference is that Kinnick will sell out each and every game this year, while Illinois is averaging 50,254 fans per game.

So if you cheer for the black and gold and live in Eastern Iowa or Chicago, tickets will be available at the door.


I pretty much hit on where Iowa would struggle last week against Penn State, but I just didn't count on the two three-run homers the Hawks would hit, or their bullpen's ability to hold the late lead in the 6-4 win.

I went with my gut feeling in picking Penn State, when I should have gone with my wife's rationale of ‘supporting the troops'.

Thankfully, Iowa plays Illinois this week, so I can avoid controversy with my pick, for at least one more week, maybe.

I like the Hawks in this game, but it's not going to be a whitewashing. Iowa will grind out a win, and I think Walner Belleus will play a big part in that on special teams in the return game.


BONUS PICK: After a futile offensive first half, Ron Turner inserts Jon Beujter in the third quarter; Matt Roth goes Pavlovian.

Week One: Iowa 48, Kent State 10 (Iowa 39, Kent State 7)
Week Two: Iowa 24, Iowa State 6 (Iowa 17, Iowa State 10)
Week Three: Arizona State 23, Iowa 17 (ASU 44, Iowa 7)
Week Four: Michigan 26, Iowa 10 (Michigan 30, Iowa 17)
Week Five: Iowa 23, MSU 13 (Iowa 38, MSU 16)
Week Six: Iowa 23, Ohio State 19 (Iowa 33, OSU 7)
Week Seven: Penn State 17, Iowa 15 (Iowa 6, PSU 4)

Jon's Game Week predictions since the start of the 2001 season: 39-6 (losses: 2001: Iowa State & Michigan; 2002: USC; 2003: Michigan State & Ohio State, 2004: Penn State.

Listen to Jon Miller & Jim Zabel, the legendary voice of the Iowa Hawkeyes, after the game on ‘Sound Off', exclusively on 1040, WHO. The show will begin approximately an hour after the game ends and we will break down the Saturday games as well as take your phone calls for three hours If you live in Des Moines, tune into WHO-TV 13 on their 10PM newscast for Jon Miller's ‘Eye on the Hawks' segment, and watch ‘Sound Off' on the same channel Sunday nights after the newscast for more Hawkeye insight from Jon Miller. Visit for Jon's weekly, ‘State of the Hawkeye Nation' column. And stay right here at to read all you could possibly want to read regarding your Iowa Hawkeyes

If you are in the Des Moines area, you can stop by Off Campus Apparel and Novelties next to the Merle Hay Mall and pick up a copy of Hawkeye Nation magazine. Also, look for copies at the ‘Gameday Iowa' tent near Kinnick Stadium on home Saturdays.

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