Preview and picks: Illinois vs. Iowa

CHAMPION — Illinois football feels growing confidence. Should.

The Illini (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) enter Saturday’s primetime matchup against Iowa (3-2,1-1 Big Ten) on a three-game winning streak during which they have outscored opponents 89 -13. The Illini have the No. 1 scoring defense in the country, the leading FBS running back (brown chase) and a new competent passing attack under a new offensive coordinator (Barry Monday Jr.) and new quarterback (tommy devito).

For the first time in a while, the Illini are the favorites to beat the Hawkeyes, who have won eight straight in this series and 13 of the last 14 overall.

“There are a lot of good vibes in the Smith Center and DIA right now,” Illini head coach Bret Bielema he said Saturday after a 34-10 victory at Wisconsin that ended an eight-game losing streak at Camp Randall Stadium.

Illinois is no longer surprised by beating good Big Ten opponents. That represents a big change for the show in season two under Bielema, who is trying hard to raise expectations on the long-troubled Big Ten show.

But Bielema also doesn’t want that hunger, the chip on her shoulder, to fade away after tasting success and recognition for the first time. Not with opponents like Iowa and Minnesota, two of Illini’s top contenders for a Big Ten West championship, next on the schedule. Not with such a great opportunity for Saturday’s show to build hype around the show and pursue a realistic path to a Big Ten West title.

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“It’s my job as head coach to teach our guys about people who want to be around you, want to talk to you. But also because of that, there is a creeping cousin in this world called complacency,” Bielema said Monday. “You just think these things are going to happen and that takes victims out of all of us. With our coaches, our players and anyone in the Smith Centerthat is our great challenge.”

Iowa also presents a big challenge on the field. While the Hawkeyes offense has struggled a lot (2nd worst total offense in FBS), the defense (#3 in FBS in scoring defense) and special teams are top notch and capable of crashing the Hawkeyes party. Illini, as they have for so many. good teams in recent seasons.

Bielema’s team seemed to get that message immediately after the victory in Wisconsin.

“It is a nice moment. But this is something we can’t stop at,” Illini offensive tackle alex palczewski he said after beating Wisconsin. “This is something that is normal. We had a great game plan. Our trainers trained their butts. We play the queue. They are a good team. It’s a good win. Let’s enjoy it. But tomorrow we’re going to Iowa because this is the new norm.”

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