The Breakdown: Iowa vs. Illinois
Breaking down Saturday's football game between Iowa and Illinois.
Time and place — 11 a.m., Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City
TV — BTN (Kevin Kugler, play-by-play; Matt Millen, analyst; Rick Pizzo, sideline reporter)
Radio — Hawkeye Radio Network. Also available on Sirius Ch. 105 and XM Ch. 195
Records — Iowa 7-3 (4-3 Big Ten West Division), Illinois 6-4 (4-3)
AP ranking — Iowa is No. 19, Illinois is not ranked.
Coaches poll ranking — Iowa is No. 20, Illinois is not ranked.
CFP — Iowa is No. 17, Illinois is not ranked.
Series — Illinois leads, 38-24-2. Iowa has won the last five games and 10 of the last 11.
Line — Iowa -15 1/2
Moneyline — Iowa -714, Illinois +490
Over/under — 48 1/2
Game-time forecast — Partly sunny, 39
Forecast for the day — Partly sunny, high of 46
• Iowa has won the last three games against the Illini by a combined score of 137-16.
• Illinois' last win in Kinnick Stadium was in 1999.
• Illinois' last win in the series was a 27-24 victory in 2008. The two rivals didn't play again until 2014.
• Iowa is 18-18-2 against the Illini at home.
When Iowa has the ball
The Hawkeyes scored touchdowns on their first three possessions in last week's 23-19 win over Minnesota, a burst that showed Iowa's capabilities.
A similar start needs to happen in Saturday's game, and it helps that Tyler Goodson will be making his second start at running back. Goodson is coming off a 94-yard game against Minnesota, and against an Illinois defense that ranks 13th overall in rushing defense in the Big Ten (14th in conference games) should find plenty of openings.
The Illini, though, are ball hawks. They lead the nation with six defensive touchdowns, 26 turnovers gained, 17 forced fumbles, 16 fumble recoveries and a plus-1.4 turnover margin.
"The goal has got to be to play clean football on Saturday," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "That's the bottom line. That's really a huge factor in any game we play typically. We have to try to be as clean as we can knowing this is a very opportunistic, aggressive type of defense."
Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley has thrown just five interceptions in 10 games, but all of those have come in conference play. He'll get some more help at wide receiver — Brandon Smith is expected to play as he continues to recover from an ankle injury.
Watch Illinois linebacker Dele Harding — he leads the Big Ten and ranks second nationally with 12 tackles per game.
When Illinois has the ball
Illini quarterback Brandon Peters has been especially efficient during his team's current four-game winning streak. He has thrown for 689 yards and six touchdowns, and he's put together two game-winning drives in the closing seconds against Wisconsin and Michigan State.
This is a team that is very good in the second half. Illinois has outscored its last four opponents 79-22 in the second half. The Illini trailed 31-10 to Michigan State heading into the fourth quarter, and won 37-24. They also were behind Wisconsin, 23-14, with six minutes left before scoring the final 10 points for the win.
Wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe leads the Illini with 29 catches for 598 yards and nine touchdowns. He is coming off a two-touchdown, 178-yard receiving day in the win over Michigan State.
Running back Reggie Corbin leads the Illini with 606 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
"It's been week after week we're playing good backs, and he's certainly in there," Ferentz said. "I mean, he's just a really talented football player. He finishes runs and has got big-play capability. If I remember, he had a big game against Nebraska the week before we played them last year, and it caught our attention for sure. He's a quality player, and in our conference there are a lot of them. He's right there at the top."
The final thought
Iowa defeated Illinois, 63-0, last season. It seems like a long time ago, considering how the Illini have improved.
"I think one of the first points we made to our football team was this is a totally new Illinois football team," Ferentz said. "Anything that we may remember from the past or seen on film from the past really you can kind of discard at this point because they're playing at a really different level right now. A lot of the same faces, but they're playing at a much higher level right now."
That should be a big concern for the Hawkeyes, who want to close with a win this week and then next Friday at Nebraska to get a nine-win season.
Iowa hasn't had a problem with Illinois in recent seasons, and a once-bitter rivalry doesn't seem that way anymore. Saturday could be a change in direction for the series.