Unbeaten Hawkeyes looking to continue fast start vs. Illini
Who: Illinois vs. No. 22 Iowa
When: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET
Where: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa
Spread: Iowa -11
Matchup to watch: Wes Lunt vs. Desmond King
There are gambles to take and gambles not to take for a quarterback. It seems like quarterbacks are taking way too many gambles on the Iowa cornerback, and it hasn’t been working out very well. Lunt would be wise to avoid dangerous throws King’s way. Joel Stave didn’t last week and King picked him off twice. The junior is tied for the national lead in interceptions, and more importantly, he’s been the defensive game-changer the Hawkeyes lacked in recent years. Lunt has struggled with his accuracy at times, and without Josh Ferguson, he’ll lack his safety blanket. Fitting in throws to Geronimo Allison might not be the best idea with King draped all over him.
Thing I’m excited to see: A healthy Drew Ott
We all wondered what Ott would look like against that oversized Wisconsin line with him still working his way back from an elbow injury. Well, we got an emphatic answer. Ott lit up Stave in the backfield and forced a fumble to give the Hawkeyes prime field position. Any lingering concerns about his health went away last week, which is big for Iowa against an Illini front that’s only allowed five sacks all year. Besides getting to the quarterback, Ott’s presence should also be felt containing a new-look Illini ground game. With Ferguson doubtful, freshman Ke’Shawn Vaughn will be asked to do a lot of different things out of the backfield. If Ott is there to greet him, that won’t be a formula for success for Illinois.
Number to remember: 0
Speaking of that run defense, Iowa is the only team in FBS that hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown in 2015. And that’s including a trip to Camp Randall. The Hawkeyes have been so good in limiting the big plays against the run and making the third-down stops when they need to. Nate Meier has been stellar coming off the edge and Cole Fisher has been everywhere. That’s not exactly a welcome sight for an inexperienced tailback. This could be a game where Lunt is relied on to make big-time red zone throws, just like he did last week to beat Nebraska.
Prediction: No. 22 Iowa 28, Illinois 10
Iowa has shown that it can dominate teams when it beats them at the line of scrimmage. I don’t see Illinois matching the Hawkeyes in the trenches. Jordan Canzeri is able to rack up a big day with the Hawkeyes playing ahead early and this one is in the bag by the start of the fourth quarter.