If you’re looking for a potential FCS over FBS matchup, this might be it. Illinois State is coming off a massive 13-2 playoff season, but it didn’t play and FBS teams along the way, With a high-powered passing game and one of the best defenses in the FCS, the Redbirds would be good enough to challenge for the title in some of the Group of Five conferences. Iowa can’t afford any slip-ups after a mediocre 7-6 season, capped off by an ugly bowl loss. This is a rebuilding year in a lot of ways, but there’s no time to tune up.
Below we dive into the Iowa vs. Illinois State prediction and game preview.
Iowa vs. Illinois State Prediction & Preview
Date: Saturday, September 5
Game Time: 12:00 ET
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Why You Need To Care
Illinois State has never beaten a Big Ten team and has never faced Iowa, but this is a loaded team led by Tre Roberson, the former Indiana quarterback who stepped in and set the FCS world on fire last season. Good enough to blow through the Missouri Valley Conference again and be in the hunt for another playoff spot, the firepower is there to at least make Iowa work really, really hard.
The Hawkeyes have the rivalry date at Iowa State next, but more than anything else, they need to try to get back on the Big Ten map. An afterthought recently, Kirk Ferentz’s teams have been okay, but not great with a mediocre offense not able to take advantage of the excellent play at times by the defense. That D, though, melted down over the second half of last year once the schedule ramped up, and it’s going to have to get everything right in on the line considering the Redbird firepower in the backfield.
Why Illinois State Will Win
The Redbirds have a better quarterback and running back than Iowa does. Roberson moved on to Illinois State after he didn’t get the Indiana starting job, and he showed why the Hoosiers might have made a huge mistake with over 3,200 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, and 1,029 rushing yards with 11 scores. Marshaun Coprich was a major part of the special season, too, with 2,274 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns. Considering Iowa has to revamp the run D a bit, Illinois State should be able to run wild.
Why Iowa Will Win
This is a really, really small Illinois State defensive line full of linebacker-sized ends and a 255-pound tackle in Adam Conley. This is where Iowa has to go simple and just blast away on the inside all game long, needing to use the power ground game as much as possible behind an O line that gets three good starters back including Austin Blythe on the inside. Iowa is about 50 pounds per man bigger – for the most part – than what Illinois State has up front. It’s going to be a grind.
Player Who Matters
Okay, C.J. Beathard, it’s time to be great. Jake Rudock was a good enough Big Ten quarterback to be in the mix for the Michigan gig, but his transfer meant that Beathard has to be worth it. The 6-2, 209-pounder is mobile and has a live arm, but he’s going to have to be a playmaker with a mediocre receiving corps to work with and a ground game that’s going to be okay, not great. He has to be the difference-maker.
What’s Going To Happen?
Really, can Iowa lose the home opener to an FCS team? This isn’t just any team from the lower level. Roberson is going to give the Iowa linebacking corps fits, and with good bulk on the offensive line, it’s going to be all about controlling the ball and the clock. Beathard will look great at times, but Illinois State will be good from the star and won’t whither after getting beaten up in the fourth quarter.
Iowa vs. Illinois State Score Prediction
Without further ado … the Iowa vs. Illinois Stat prediction is …
Final Score: Illinois State 30, Iowa 27