A win in Iowa puts Cubit in the driver's seat

Illinois coaches Mike Ward (left), Tim Banks (center) and Bill Cubit converse on the field during Saturday’s game against Nebraska at Memorial Stadium. Illinois won 14-13.

By Peter Bailey-Wells

Illinois football’s win over Nebraska was a long time coming.

Illini nation endured a lot under Tim Beckman, the least of which was Big Ten mediocrity. But the Illini are undefeated in Big Ten play since Bill Cubit took over as head coach.

He’s coached one Big Ten game and won one Big Ten game. If he wins his second game this weekend in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes, and is untainted by the upcoming results of the player abuse investigation, he should be Illinois’ coach come 2016.

If Illinois beats Iowa, the Illini would be one win away from a bowl game. That win could be against Wisconsin, Penn State, Minnesota or Purdue — especially Purdue.

If Illinois beats Iowa, the Illini would be 2-0 to begin Big Ten play and make Cubit the first Illinois coach to begin his conference career that well in nearly three decades.

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If Illinois beats Iowa, the Illini will remain at the top of the Big Ten West.

And if Illinois loses to Iowa?

Bill Cubit’s team drops a road game in a tough atmosphere and returns to Champaign for a bye week and a big Homecoming matchup with Wisconsin. The Illini would still be at 4-2 overall, two games away from a bowl birth and still at .500 in the Big Ten.

Saturday is a win-win game for Cubit. The Nebraska win got the Big Ten opener monkey off his back. It was a signature win against a signature program — albeit in a down year — and set his team up for a big Homecoming game on Oct. 24.

The Illini are a 10-point underdog against the 5-0 Hawkeyes. They face an upward battle without Josh Ferguson and with a struggling receiving corps. They haven’t won a game at Kinnick Stadium since 1999. They haven’t beaten Iowa since 2008.

Ted Karras — when asked Monday about his team’s prospects against Iowa — started to say “we could pull it off” and then stopped and said “We’re going to be competitive in this game.” That demonstrates the wide-held expectations of the Illini going into this game. They stand a chance, but they’re definitely the underdog.

But if Bill Cubit “pulls off” a win against the Hawkeyes, he’s in the drivers seat as far as the future head coaching position is concerned.

If he pulls off a win against the Hawkeyes, it’s his game to lose.

Peter Bailey-Wells is a junior in Media.