Iowa vs. Illinois Odds, Picks: Why the Hawkeyes Have Value in This Big Ten Showdown

Iowa vs. Illinois Odds, Picks: Why the Hawkeyes Have Value in This Big Ten Showdown article feature image

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Image. Pictured: Kirk Ferentz (Iowa)

  • Iowa takes on Illinois in a Big Ten clash as part of college football's Week 6.
  • The Hawkeyes have been a disappointment this season, mainly because of their offense and their performance against South Dakota State.
  • Can they rebound here on the road against the Illini? Brad Cunningham breaks it down.

Iowa vs. Illinois Odds

Saturday, Oct. 8
7:30 p.m. ET
Big Ten Network
Iowa Odds
-114o / -106u
Illinois Odds
-114o / -106u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

A defensive slugfest is on the horizon in Champaign when Iowa battles Illinois in a Big Ten West clash.

Iowa suffered its second loss of the season at the hands of Michigan last weekend, and it was the first time this year that the Hawkeyes have given up multiple touchdowns in a game. The Iowa offense has been one of the worst in the Power Five, but did show some promise against Michigan's defense.

Illinois got a season-defining win on the road in Madison last weekend, pounding Wisconsin 34-10.

The win puts the Big Ten West in major flux, with all six teams still alive to go to Indianapolis. This game is vitally important for both teams.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Hawkeyes Offense

Despite the final score, Iowa's offense did make some improvements against Michigan last weekend. Iowa gained 5.1 yards per play and had a 51% Standard Down Success Rate.

Spencer Petras may have been the laughing stock of college football after three weeks with his starting job in jeopardy, but he's very quietly registered good performances in back-to-back games against a couple of solid defenses.

Image via PFF

Iowa's biggest achilles heel this season has been the offensive line. The unit ranks 124th in pass blocking, 75th in run blocking and 121st in Offensive Line Yards. Illinois has an incredible front seven, so it's going to be a long day for the Iowa offensive line.

With how bad Iowa's offensive line has been, the Hawkeyes' running backs haven't found much room to run and are only averaging 4.0 yards per carry.

Hawkeyes Defense

Iowa has the second-best defensive grade in college football at 93.3, per PFF. The Hawkeyes are only allowing 3.9 yards per play, rank fifth in EPA/Play and are first in Explosiveness Allowed.

To score on the Hawkeyes, you have to move four yards at a time, and if you're not prepared to play that way, Iowa will punish you.

Stopping the run is going to be key in this game. Iowa had some difficulty slowing down Blake Corum, but the Michigan rushing attack still only gained 4.1 yards per carry last weekend.

For the season, Iowa is seventh in EPA/Rush, ninth in Defensive Line Yards and third in Rushing Explosiveness Allowed.

It helps when you have one of the best linebacking duos in the country in Jack Campbell and Seth Benson, which is the reason Iowa has the fifth-best tackling grade, per PFF.


Jack Campbell breaks through and gives Iowa the 5-3 lead 🔥

— 247Sports (@247Sports) September 3, 2022

The Iowa secondary is once again one of the top units in the country. The cornerback duo of Cooper DeJean and Terry Roberts has combined to allow only a 46% reception rate and 4.06 yards per target. They also have eight pass breakups and four interceptions on the season.


— Heavens! (@HeavensFX) September 24, 2022

Iowa is ranked as the second-best coverage unit in the country, per PFF, 11th in Passing Success Rate Allowed and sixth in Passing Explosiveness Allowed.

Iowa also has one of the best punters in the country in Tory Taylor. He's already downed 18 punts inside the 20-yard line (most in FBS). Opposing returners are only averaging 3.5 yards per punt return, and Iowa is No. 1 in the country in average starting field position on defense.


— Heavens! (@HeavensFX) September 3, 2022

Illinois Fighting Illini

Illini Offense 

Bret Bielema's offense has been below average this season. The Fighting Illini are only averaging 5.2 yards per play (81st in FBS), are 81st in EPA/Play and check in at 104th in Finishing Drives.

Illinois' offense is built on having a good running game. So far, that hasn't been the case.

Against Wisconsin last weekend, Illinois only ran for 3.3 yards per carry and gained just 19 second-level yards. For the season, Illinois is 75th in Rushing Success Rate, 91st in EPA/Rush and 93rd in Rushing Explosiveness.

That's not good news when going up against Iowa's front seven.

Tommy DeVito is not the focal point of the offense, as Illinois runs the ball on 57.7% of its offensive plays. However, when DeVito has been called upon, he's been pretty good.

He has a 83.9 PFF passing grade, is averaging 7.4 yards per attempt and has nine touchdowns with just two interceptions. However, he hasn't seen a secondary close to the level of Iowa's this season.

Illini Defense

The Illinois defense is the reason why the Illini are 4-1, as Indiana is the only team to score over 10 points against them. Illinois is only allowing 4.0 yards per play (sixth in FBS), ranks second in Success Rate Allowed and third in EPA/Play Allowed.

While that is very impressive, the Illini have also had some turnover luck.

Illinois has forced 11 turnovers in five games, including three last weekend against Wisconsin.

That is not sustainable.

That being said, the Illinois' front seven has been elite against the run this season and is allowing just 2.6 yards per rush. Illinois also ranks second in Rushing Success Rate Allowed and fifth in EPA/Rush.

If there is one criticism of Illinois' rush defense,  it's that you can break off some big runs against the unit because it's 114th in Explosive Rushing Allowed.

The Illinois' secondary has been close to the level of Iowa's this season, allowing 5.3 yards per attempt, ranking third in Passing Success Rate Allowed and fifth in EPA/Pass Allowed. It's most likely going to be a long afternoon for Petras.

Iowa vs. Illinois Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Iowa and Illinois match up statistically:

Iowa Offense vs. Illinois Defense
Rush Success1262
Line Yards12117
Pass Success1193
Pass Blocking**12430
Finishing Drives1251
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Illinois Offense vs. Iowa Defense
Rush Success7537
Line Yards749
Pass Success8011
Pass Blocking**3721
Finishing Drives10422
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling514
PFF Coverage24
SP+ Special Teams992
Seconds per Play29.0 (114)27.4 (87)
Rush Rate55.6% (51)57.7% (38)
Data via (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.

Iowa vs. Illinois Betting Pick

The Illinois defense has been excellent this season, but has also played some of the worst offenses in college football.

Iowa certainly has been in that category for most of the season, but the performance against Michigan was encouraging. Plus, DeVito and the below-average Illinois run game is in for a rude awakening now that it finally has to play an elite defense.

I only have Illinois projected as a -1 favorite, so I like the value on the Hawkeyes at +3.5 or better.

Pick: Iowa +3.5

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