IOWA CITY, Iowa (WCIA) — This has been a tough place to play for Illinois, the Illini haven’t beat the Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium since 1999. But this game is no different than several others this season, not many people are giving Illinois much of a chance.
The Illini have played well as the underdog the last month of the season, Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan State were all big favorites, and Illinois won each of those games. And once again the Illini are double digit dawgs to the Hawkeyes, who have head coach Lovie Smith’s respect.
“Their program is one of the best traditionally and I think people look at them that way,” Lovie Smith said. “I think the programs that don’t get an awful lot are the University of Illinois’ of the world. We’re the ones who are trying to get people to take us seriously. I mean we’re double digit underdogs every week.”
Maybe the 15.5 points the Hawkeyes are getting is warranted, last year’s 63-0 win in Champaign would warrant that, but Iowa says they’re expecting a much different game this time.
“You know they’re just playing extremely hard. I think they’re very confident, four wins in a row, you don’t do that unless you’re confident,” Iowa quaterback Nate Stanley said. “We know that they’re playing well and they’re a physical team and they’re going to come in and compete.”
“This is a totally new Illinois football team,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Anything that we may remember from the past or seen on film from the past, we can discard because they’re playing at a really different level right now.”
With a bowl bid already clinched the Illini are playing with house money so to speak but there’s still plenty at stake, even the Big Ten West title is still up for grabs but Illinois has to win tomorrow and then get some help along the way.
Illinois and Iowa kick off at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday.