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On Saturday, the 20th ranked Iowa Hawkeyes will welcome the Illinois Fighting Illini to town for a 12:00 P.M ET game on Big Ten Network. Both teams are already bowl eligible entering the game.
Illinois hasn't won a game against Iowa this decade. Their last victory against the Hawkeyes came in 2008. Since, the Hawkeyes have gone 5-0 against the Fighting Illini, including a 4-1 ATS record.
That said, the Fighting Illini are red hot at the moment. They have won four straight games after starting the season 2-4. One of the wins during their four-game streak was a huge W against sixth-ranked Wisconsin. Likewise, the Iowa Hawkeyes are coming off a huge W against previously unbeaten Minnesota.
Illinois is a Great StoryIllinois head coach Lovie Smith was on the verge of losing his job at the end of the season after a 2-4 start. He had amassed a 13-31 record up to that point as the head man at Illinois. Then, on one Saturday, everything changed when the Fighting Illini upset No. 6 Wisconsin in Champaign. The Illini haven't lost since, earning bowl eligibility two weekends ago when they completed an improbable 25-point comeback against previously ranked Michigan State.
First and foremost, the Smith's defense has stepped up during their four-game winning streak. They held Purdue to six points on the road and overall, have allowed opponents to score just 18.3 points per game over their last four. The group is as opportunistic as it gets, ranking first among all FBS teams in takeaways per game (2.6).
Former Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters deserves a lot of credit, too. He's given the Illini a legit threat under center they haven't had under Smith and he's taking care of the ball to boot. He has thrown 16 touchdown passes to just 5 interceptions this season.
Iowa Ranked 17th in CFPThe Iowa Hawkeyes win a certain way and that's not going to change. They play really tough defense, control the clock, and rely on their senior stars to make a handful of plays a game. They're currently 7-3 on the season with their only losses coming against ranked opponents (Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin). While they have struggled against top teams, they're coming off their biggest win of the season, a 23-19 triumph over previously unbeaten Minnesota.
Iowa's defense stood up against Minnesota's hot offense, especially in the first half. They held the Gophers to six points in the first half and just 63 rushing yards for the game. Overall, the Hawkeyes rank No. 4 in the entire nation, allowing just 12.4 points per game.
Offensively, senior quarterback Nate Stanley is getting better as the season goes. In his last three games, he hasn't thrown an interception while throwing five touchdowns. For the season, Stanley is completing a career-best 60.7 percent of his passes.
- 2-5-1 ATS in their last 8 games after allowing more than 280 yards passing in their previous game.
- 5-0 ATS in their last 5 conference games.
- 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games following an ATS win.
- 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games overall.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
There are plenty of reasons to like Illinois on Saturday. The first: they're getting 16 points, which is a ton, especially when they're facing a team in Iowa who hasn't beaten a winning Power-5 team by that much all season. On top of that, the Fighting Illini have had an extra week of rest. Iowa, on the other hand, is coming off an absolute dogfight last weekend against a ranked Gophers team. Illinois has also proven they can go on the road and play well; they have gone 3-1 on the road this year, which includes conference wins against Michigan State and Purdue.
Prediction: Illinois +16
Full-Game Total Pick
What we're dealing with here is two teams that are defense first. That's not to say their quarterbacks and offenses are no good, they're just not units that are going to go out there and hang 50 points on the board. Both teams try to run the ball and control the clock, especially Illinois, who has almost 118 more running plays than passing plays this year. Speaking to that, four of their last five road games have stayed under, and the Hawkeyes have only had one over in their last nine games. Iowa wins 20-16.
Prediction: Under 46.5