Matchups to watch in Illinois-Iowa game

By Masaki Sugimoto

WR Geronimo Allison vs. CB Desmond King

Geronimo Allison has proven that he is a stud wide receiver and a legitimate threat after his performance against Nebraska. Allison leads the Big Ten with 32 catches and 452 receiving yards and is on the Biletnikoff award watch list. But Iowa cornerback Desmond King is no slouch. King was the Jim Thorpe player of the week and Big Ten co-defensive player of the week after recording two picks and two pass breakups against Wisconsin. Thanks in park to King, the Hawkeyes only gave up two field goals to the Badgers. Illinois does not shy away from the fact that Allison is the go-to receiver on the team, all but one of the goal-line plays in Saturday’s win over Nebraska were sent his way. Allison has a size advantage at 6-foot-4, but this matchup will be key to seeing who will compete with Northwestern to win the Big Ten West.

RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn vs. Iowa defense

Josh Ferguson is highly doubtful for Saturday’s game due to a shoulder injury sustained last week. Vaughn filled in nicely and rushed for 98 yards, averaging 4.1 yards a carry, but the freshman will have his biggest test by far against Iowa. The Hawkeyes rank second in rush defense in the conference, giving up only 2.6 yards per carry, and are the only team in the conference yet to give up a rushing touchdown. If Vaughn steps up, a huge load will be taken off the Illini, and it will probably quell the cheers coming from Iowa’s Homecoming crowd. If Vaughn can’t fill in well, the Illini will have their backs against a wall and could have road troubles again, much like they did against North Carolina.

Illini punting vs. Iowa return team

Illinois is at the bottom of the conference when it comes to punting. The Illini are averaging 38.9 yards a punt. Ryan Frain and David Reisner took on punting duties against Nebraska. and neither had impressive punts. Iowa is second in the conference on punt returns with Desmond King as its returner. The Hawkeyes average 18.7 yards per punt return. If the low-scoring games from last week were any indication, both teams have stubborn defenses that could call for a lot of punts. If Illinois’ punting does not do well enough, Iowa could end up winning a game that could depend on better field position. The forecast currently shows that there will not be strong winds in Iowa City on Saturday, so whoever the punter is for Illinois won’t have to fight the elements like they did last week.

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