No. 19 Iowa hopes to make it seven straight over Illinois

Teams coming off recent wins over Nebraska meet Saturday when Illinois hosts No. 19 Iowa in Champaign, Ill.

The Fighting Illini beat the Cornhuskers 41-23 two weeks ago in Lincoln, Neb., while the Hawkeyes posted a 26-20 home victory on Nov. 27.

Iowa is seeking its first five-game winning streak since opening 2015 with 12 straight wins, but coach Kirk Ferentz is not taking Illinois lightly.

Illini quarterback Brandon Peters, who played against Nebraska for the first time since the opener because of COVID-19 issues, threw for 205 yards and a touchdown to improve to 7-5 in his career in games he’s able to complete. Four others took a crack at the position, with minimal success, while Peters was out.

“The last time out when they had their quarterback back in and were able to do the things they wanted to do, they did them extremely well against a team that we struggled to beat the other day,” Ferentz said.

“It was an impressive outing when they were with Nebraska, and that’s the Illinois team we’re trying to get ready for right now,” he added.

The Hawkeyes have outscored their last four opponents by a combined 151-55 and averaged 37.8 points per game.

“Our goal at the start of the season wasn’t to be 4-2, but four weeks ago that was the best we could do,” Ferentz said. “I’m proud of what they’ve done the last four weeks.”

In the win over Nebraska, Tyler Goodson finished with 111 yards on a career-high 30 carries, while Spencer Petras completed 18-of-30 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted once. The Hawkeyes scored the final 13 points of the game for their sixth straight win in the series.

Illinois (2-3) had last Saturday’s game against No. 3 Ohio State canceled due to COVID concerns and is seeking its third straight win after knocking off Rutgers 23-20 and Nebraska for the first time in Lincoln since 1924.

“As we went into the football season, we knew we were going to need to be flexible, that things could change quickly, and that’s exactly what happened for us this past week,” coach Lovie Smith said Monday.

“We were really excited about playing one of the best teams in the country here at home, but once the decision was made by the league, we moved on quickly to Iowa. It doesn’t take much for us to get fired up about playing the Hawkeyes,” Smith said.

Illinois has had five 100-yard rushing efforts in its last three games, including two each from Mike Epstein and Chase Brown. Against Nebraska, Epstein picked up 113 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, and Brown carried 26 times for 110 yards and two scores.

The Illini average 222.4 yards per game on the ground, second only to Ohio State’s 233.3 in the Big Ten.

For the second straight game, the Illini defense picked off three passes. Linebacker Jake Hansen has made one in each game.

Iowa leads the all-time series 38-35-2 and has won the last six games and 11 of 12. The last time the game was played in Champaign, Iowa posted a 63-0 victory in 2018 — its largest margin of victory in the series.

–Field Level Media

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