Daily Illini Sports Podcast: Iowa-Illinois prediction with Hawkeye beat writer

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Logan Hodson

Junior running back Chase Brown takes the ball down the field during the game against Chattanooga on Sept. 22.

By Carson Gourdie and Josh Pietsch

Daily Illini Sports Podcast: Iowa-Illinois prediction with Hawkeye beat writer

Josh Pietsch and Carson Gourdie of the Daily Illini preview Illinois’ matchup against Iowa with Kennington Smith of The Des Moines Register.

Turnovers. Considered the biggest equalizer in the sport, that single stat will determine who will win the matchup between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Illinois Fighting Illini. If the Hawkeyes force Illinois fifth-year senior quarterback Tommy DeVito into throwing multiple picks or cause a couple fumbles, prepare yourself for Indiana 2.0.

The Illini were the superior team against the Hoosiers despite the last-second loss. Usually, if a Big Ten team out gains a team by 150 rushing yards, a win is a lock. However, four turnovers doomed the Illini and a similar performance could occur this weekend head coach Bret Bielema doesn’t get his team ready. 

Now, Iowa relying on turnovers to win a game is unsustainable. Athletic director Josh Whitman would’ve been forced to build former head coach Lovie Smith a statue for his numerous Big Ten championships if a defense could regularly force four turnovers. 

Iowa simply can’t win on its own offensive merits. If DeVito plays clean — not even great — the Illini can probably muster 14 points and walk away with a program-defining victory. Iowa senior quarterback Spencer Petras has consistently gotten worse each season since 2020 and his poor play is probably holding back the Hawkeyes from an easy division title. 

My buddy said it best: Given both of the teams defenses, it’s pretty much a wash. But while the Illini offense is superior to Kirk Ferentz inept bunch, Illinois have not proven that they can win a game on their own. 

Thirty-four points against Wisconsin is good. Very good. But let’s dig a tad deeper into the stats. The Illini barely registered over 300 total yards of offense, and senior running back Chase Brown was bottled up aside from his 49-yard-clinching touchdown run. 

What if the Illini secondary doesn’t pick off Mertz inside the red zone or at midfield in the first half? What if the Illini don’t recover the bobbled kickoff return early in the third quarter? What if the Illini don’t receive a pass interference call on 4th and goal, which extended their drive? 

Trust me, watching Bret Bielema smack down his former employer was one of the most enjoyable games I’ve watched in my life. However, it’s clear the offense had a silver spoon in its mouth over the Badger defense and a sloppy game — like Indiana and Virginia — would’ve made the game a lot closer than 34-10. 

Here’s the deal: we should be Iowa. But the Illini faithful that I talk to think the game is in the bag. 

No. 

The Hawkeye defense is superior to Wisconsin’s. The Badgers lost eight defensive starters, were put in tough field positions and only surrounded 300 total yards of offense. It’s simply: if the Illini offense plays clean, they’ll earn their first victory over Ferentz since 2008. 

An performance analogous to early-season performances — they’ll lose. 

I’ve had a good day, so I’ll say that the Illini play clean. But please, don’t get too confident. 

Illinois 20 Iowa 13

 

@GourdieReport