Illinois will have a new starting quarterback when it plays a Big Ten game Saturday at Iowa. Jeff George Jr. will be under center in place of Chayce Crouch when the Fighting Illini attempt to end a four-game losing streak against the Hawkeyes.
“Some positions you try to stay the course as much as you possibly can,” Illinois coach Lovie Smith told reporters. “But you kind of have to look at what’s going on on the field.” Crouch has completed 53.2 percent of his passes with one touchdown and four interceptions for the Fighting Illini, who have lost two straight by a combined 46 points. George, the son of former Illinois and NFL quarterback Jeff George, was only slightly better in his lone appearance this season with one touchdown pass and two interceptions against South Florida. The Hawkeyes, who have suffered one-score losses to No. 4 Penn State and Michigan State the last two games, are well situated at quarterback with Nathan Stanley. The sophomore, who was held with a touchdown pass for the only time this season last Saturday against Michigan State, has thrown for more than 1,000 yards with 12 touchdowns and one interception in five games.
TV: Noon ET, Big Ten Network. Line: Iowa - 8.5
ABOUT ILLINOIS (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten): With struggles in the passing game, the Fighting Illini have relied on a freshman running back to carry the offensive load. Mike Epstein has produced 263 yards and three touchdowns on the ground and 59 yards and one score through the air. No other running back has produced better than three yards per carry for Illinois, who lead the series with Iowa 38-32-2 but are in danger of losing for the ninth time in 10 meetings.
ABOUT IOWA (3-2, 0-2): Senior running back Akrum Wadley has been active as both a runner and receiver for the Hawkeyes, who defeated Illinois 28-0 last season. Wadley has run for 368 yards and three touchdowns while catching 13 balls for a team-leading 244 yards and two scores. Stanley, who is the first quarterback in Iowa history to have 12 touchdown passes in his first four starts, has connected with six different receivers for scores - including three each to Nick Easley and Noah Fant.
1. Wadley has 2,131 career rushing yards and is 98 shy of moving past Shonn Greene into the top 10 in program history.
2. Iowa’s senior LB Josey Jewell, who has produced back-to-back games with 16 tackles, leads the Big Ten with 60 and boasts 8.5 tackles for loss.
3. Illinois DE Isaiah Gay is the third-youngest true freshman to start a game this season in the FBS and is one of 19 first-time starters for his team.
PREDICTION: Iowa 47, Illinois 23