Illinois, Indiana scrap for gains in standings
Indiana might not embrace the common ground with a neighboring Big Ten rival ahead of a Saturday afternoon date at Illinois in a Big Ten crossover game.
But the Hoosiers (3-6, 1-5) and Fighting Illini (4-5, 2-4) can’t ignore it exists.
Neither team performed to the level it had hoped and through nine games is grasping at faint hope for a postseason. But there is optimism thanks to upset wins by both programs last week.
Indiana (3-6, 1-5) recorded its first conference win of the season, a 20-14 triumph over Wisconsin at home to snap a four-game losing streak.
The Hoosiers will try to earn their first road victory of the season in Champaign.
“A team that’s playing really good football, their best football of the season,” Indiana head coach Tom Allen said of the Fighting Illini. “Got a big win this past weekend. A big, physical football team. Have the biggest back we’ve played against, biggest running back, very athletic quarterback, really talented receivers and then a big, physical defense. One of the best defensive lines in the Big Ten.”
Indiana is 3-15 in its past 18 games against teams from Power 5 conferences. Only Vanderbilt (2-16), working out of the rugged SEC, is worse. One of Allen’s wins during that stretch came over Illinois, 23-20, in the second game of the 2022 season. Shaun Shivers scored a 1-yard touchdown with 23 seconds left to help the Hoosiers finish the job and push the IU winning streak over Illinois to four games.
Illinois earned a 27-26 win at Minnesota after backup quarterback John Paddock engineered a game-winning, 85-yard drive that was capped off by a 46-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Williams with 50 seconds left.
Paddock came in for starter Luke Altmyer, who suffered an undisclosed injury.
Illinois head coach Bret Bielema said Altmyer needs full medical clearance to get back on the field but said Monday “he’s trending in that direction. It’s truly got to be the in hands of our doctors. He came in and met with me about 10 o’clock (Monday) morning, and you could see the way he was interacting. I showed him a couple things on film, and he was very engaged with that.”
The Fighting Illini have won two out of their last three games, but Bielema doesn’t want his team focusing on potential bowl-eligibility over the last three games of the season.
“It’s very common for everybody to talk about the (rest of the) season,” Bielema said. “We’re about Indiana. We lost to these cats a year ago on a Friday night in a fashion where I felt like we didn’t play at our best. I was very clear with our guys this week was about Indiana preparation. I have a tremendous amount of respect for them and what they’ve done. They’ve kind of turned their season.”
Allen said wide receiver Cam Camper will miss the rest of the season to have a procedure on his knee related to his 2022 ACL injury.
Illinois redshirt freshman running back Aidan Laughery is out for the year to undergo knee surgery, Bielema said.
–Field Level Media