37ºF

Iowa football vs. Illinois: Time, TV schedule, game preview, score

Hawkeyes battle Fighting Illini

Defensive back Michael Ojemudia #11 of the Iowa Hawkeyes runs back an interception during the second half against the Miami Ohio RedHawks on August 31, 2019 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

IOWA CITY – Illinois, the hottest team in the Big Ten West Division, has not fared well against No. 20 Iowa in recent years, but the resurgent Fighting Illini bring plenty of confidence and a four-game winning streak to Iowa City for Saturday's matchup. The Illini have lost six straight games in the series dating to 2008 and were blown out 63-0 last year by the Hawkeyes.

TV: Noon ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: Iowa -15.5

But this Illinois team has taken a step forward in coach Lovie Smith's fourth season. The Illini, coming off a bye week, put themselves in position entering the final two weeks of the regular season to have a long-shot chance to win the division and make it to the Big Ten championship game. For that to happen, though, they would need to win out, No. 11 Minnesota and No. 14 Wisconsin lose this weekend, and Wisconsin to beat Minnesota next week. Iowa also has a chance to tie for the division title under a similar scenario after handing Minnesota its first loss of the season last week,

ABOUT ILLINOIS (6-4, 4-3 Big Ten)

There were questions about whether Smith would keep his job after the Illini lost four consecutive games in September and early October, but they’ve reeled off four wins in a row since - two of them with miraculous comebacks against Wisconsin and Michigan State. They’ve done it by outscoring opponents 79-22 in the second half (44-12 in the fourth quarter) and with a defense that has forced an average of three turnovers per game during the streak. Among the players most responsible for Illinois’ run of success are linebackers Dele Harding (second in FBS with 12 tackles per game) and Jake Hansen (first in FBS with seven forced fumbles), USC transfer receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe (first in the Big Ten with nine touchdown receptions) and running back Reggie Corbin (606 yards and six TDs on 116 carries, 2,292 career rushing yards).

ABOUT IOWA (7-3, 4-3)

The Hawkeyes had lost three games to ranked opponents (No. 9 Penn State, No. 12 Michigan, Wisconsin) by a total of 14 points before upending Minnesota for their biggest win of the season. Iowa is led by a defense that’s fifth in FBS in points allowed (12.4 per game), 12th in total defense (303.1 yards per game) and 16th in rushing yards allowed (106.5 per game). The leader of that group is reigning Big Ten defensive player of the week A.J. Epenesa, who collected 2.5 of Iowa’s season-high six sacks against Minnesota to boost his season totals to seven sacks, nine quarterback hits and two forced fumbles.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Tyler Goodson was the first true freshman to start at running back for Iowa since 2012 when he rushed for 94 yards last week against Minnesota.

2. Illinois leads FBS in defensive touchdowns (six), turnovers gained (26), forced fumbles (17), fumble recoveries (16) and turnover margin (plus-1.4).

3. Iowa redshirt freshman WR Tyrone Tracy has caught 16 passes for 323 yards in the last four games and he could get some help this week against Illinois with the possible return of injured wideout Brandon Smith, who has 33 receptions this year but missed most of the last three games with a knee injury.

PREDICTION: Illinois 17, Iowa 16