IOWA CITY, Iowa (WCIA) — Illinois coach Bret Bielema has checked off a lot of boxes in his three years with the Illini.
Winning at Penn State for the first time since 2010 happened in Bielema’s first season with the program. Last year he went to Wisconsin and snapped another long losing streak, walking out of Camp Randall with a victory for the first time since 2002. Another streak is next up on the list in Iowa.
Illinois hasn’t won at Kinnick Stadium since 1999 when Bielema was an assistant coach for the Hawkeyes under current Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. The storylines run deep for Bielema at his alma mater playing for the Hawkeyes from 1989 to 1992, first as a walk-on then earning a scholarship and becoming a captain.
He coached in Iowa City too. First under Hayden Fry, then when Ferentz took over he retained Bielema. His roots run deep and getting a win would certainly mean even more with a whole lot on the line as well, including bowl eligibility for the Illini.
“To go back and more importantly play a Big Ten team that’s atop of the Big Ten West, Kirk and I have known each other for a long time, worked for him, the utmost respect,” Bielema said. “A lot of things that I believe in I carry through the beginning phases of learning from him.”
“They come in here right now I think with a lot of momentum, they’ve won three out of their last four games playing really well,” Ferentz said. “It’s an interesting situation where they have not just one but two quarterbacks that are playing really well and I think their team has great confidence in both.”
Iowa has a lot on the line as well, a victory against Illinois means the Hawkeyes are outright Big Ten West champs, they’ve already clinched at least a share of the crown.
It’s a 2:30 p.m. kick on FS1, our coverage starts with the Your Illini Nation Pregame Show. Join Bret Beherns and Jeremy Werner live from the stadium at 1 p.m. on our digital channels as we get ready for kickoff.