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Editor’s note: This is sixth in a 12-part series previewing Iowa football’s 2022 opponents.
George W. Bush was still president. Apple hadn’t released the first iPad yet. Instagram didn’t exist.
All these things were true the last time Iowa football lost to Illinois — Nov. 1, 2008.
Iowa’s clash with Illinois in Champaign, Ill., on Oct. 8 is unlikely to break that trend.
While Illinois has a slight 38-36-2 edge in the all-time series, Iowa has won 13 of 14 games over the last two decades.
Bret Bielema will be in his second season leading Illinois. Bielema has an obvious track record of success in the Big Ten after taking Wisconsin to three straight Rose Bowls, but he still has plenty of work to do to elevate the Illini to the next tier of the Big Ten West.
His first year had mixed results, losing to UTSA and winning on the road against ranked Penn State and Minnesota teams. Going into his second year, many questions remain.
Quarterback Artur Sitkowski is back, but his resume — 14 career touchdowns and 22 interceptions — hardly jumps off the page. Tommy DeVito transferred from Syracuse after being benched ahead of the Orange’s 2021 game against Liberty. DeVito is the most likely starter.
Running back Chase Brown will likely face another high workload in 2022 on Bielema’s run-heavy offense.
Illinois’ defense will be without safety Kerby Joseph, who was a third-round pick in the NFL Draft. The Illini need some defensive players to make significant jumps in 2022 to improve upon their 5-7 mark in 2021.
Iowa vs. Illinois: 3 things to watch
- What level of production does Brown have? When Brown rushed for 70 or more yards in 2021, Illinois was 4-0. When he didn’t, Illinois was 1-7. The Hawkeyes held him to 42 yards on 3.2 yards per carry in 2021. If they do that again in 2022, it could be a long day for the Illini.
- Can DeVito be a reliable quarterback for Illinois? DeVito, the Syracuse transfer, once was a four-star recruit. If he can show that level of play in Champaign, it would put a little less pressure on Brown against Iowa’s experienced defensive front.
- Is Calvin Hart Jr. the same in 2022 after his injury? The 2021 season initially looked promising for Hart. He had a 41-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown, a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss and six total tackles in the season opener against Nebraska. Then he suffered a season-ending knee injury later in the game. A healthy and productive Hart would go a long way for the Illini in 2022.
Iowa is surely the more talented team and should leave Champaign with its ninth straight win in the series, but the Bielema-led Illini can be a dangerous team to overlook. Minnesota and Penn State learned that the hard way last year.
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