IOWA CITY, Iowa. (KCRG) - Summary:
Game: Illinois (6-4) at #19 Iowa (7-3)
Kickoff: 11:00 a.m.
Venue: Kinnick Stadium
Saturday is the 75th meeting between the Hawkeyes and the Illini, Illinois holds the all-time lead in the series 38-34-2. However, Iowa has been dominant in the series in more recent history, winning 13 of the last 16 games which includes last year’s 63-0 win. The 63-point margin of victory was the largest win in the series’ history.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz won his 95th Big Ten Conference game last week against Minnesota, tying Joe Paterno for fifth all-time in conference history. With a win against Illinois on Saturday, Ferentz would move into a tie for fourth all-time with his predecessor Hayden Fry.
Saturday will mark the final game at Kinnick Stadium for Iowa’s 19 senior members. Since the start of the 2016 season, the Hawkeyes have won 32 games and have gone to a bowl game each season. The class has an overall record of 32-17, including a 19-8 record at home.
Even on senior day, it could be the freshman running back Tyler Goodson who steals the headlines once again. Goodson was the starter for the first time this season last week against Minnesota and he didn’t disappoint, rushing for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Keith Duncan has been Iowa’s most reliable player on offense as he leads the country with 23 field goals made, which is also a new single-season school record. Duncan’s 86.5% field goal percentage is the best ever among Iowa kickers with at least 30 attempts.
With just two regular season games remaining, Iowa’s scoring defense has posted the lowest total of the Kirk Ferentz era (12.4 ppg). Iowa has held seven of their opponents to their season-low point total, Illinois’ lowest point total of the season coming into Saturday’s game is 17.
A look at the opponent: Illinois The Illini are one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten, coming into Saturday’s game on a four game winning streak for the first time since 2011. The last time Illinois won three straight road games was in 2001, and they have a chance to do it again with a win against Iowa after defeating Purdue and Michigan State on the road.
Illinois has proven that no lead is safe against them. In Illinois win over Wisconsin, the Illini trailed by as many as 13, and was down by 9 with just six minutes to play before rallying for the 24-23 win. Last week, the Illini trailed Michigan State 28-3 in the second quarter and 31-10 entering the fourth quarter, only to eventually win 37-34.
Believe it or not, Illinois is not just playing for bowl placement on Saturday. Due to the Illini’s upset over Wisconsin, Illinois is still alive to win the Big Ten West. Illinois has to beat Iowa, and have Minnesota and Wisconsin lose this week, paired with Wisconsin beating Minnesota in the final week of the season and Illinois topping Northwestern.
Illinois defense is a turnover machine. The Illini rank first in the nation in turnovers (26), forced fumbles (17), turnover margin (+1.4) and defensive touchdowns (6). It all starts with head coach & defensive coordinator Lovie Smith who has modeled his defense to mirror his extremely tough Chicago Bear defenses.
Among others, a player to watch out for on Illinois’ offense is USC transfer Josh Imatorbhebhe. Imatorbhebhe leads the team in catches (29), receiving yards (598). Imatorbhebhe leads the Big Ten with 9 receiving touchdowns on the season, which is tied for the third-most in school history.