Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Take Two: Must wins for Iowa or Illinois?
By Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg
Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.
Both Illinois and Iowa are off to 2-2 starts and have some major issues as conference play opens this week. So Today's Take Two topic is this: Who needs a win this week more -- the Hawkeyes or the Illini?
Take 1: Brian Bennett
A reader in my Monday chat asked if this week's game against Minnesota was a must-win for Iowa. I hadn't thought of it that way since we're still in September, but I think it is. There's a lot of negativity around Kirk Ferentz's program right now, and that would only be amplified to 11 on the dial if the Hawkeyes lose to the Gophers at home for their third straight defeat in the Floyd of Rosedale series. Iowa would have to hear about its problems for two solid weeks with the bye in Week 6. A Week 7 trip to Michigan State would not be the ideal place to try and get back on track, either. It's really hard to see how the Hawkeyes could finish better than 6-6 if they don't beat Minnesota this week, and it's easy to envision a losing record. The team has a lot of issues right now, and everything from an uneven passing attack to holes in the defense to some special teams breakdowns have played a role in the losses to Iowa State and Central Michigan. Fans are starting to lose confidence in Ferentz, and while a loss to the Gophers wouldn't be the end of the world, it makes Iowa's world a whole lot more uncomfortable.
Take 2: Adam Rittenberg
It's a potentially critical week for both teams, and I hear you on Iowa. Despite recent history, Hawkeyes fans think they're superior to both Iowa State and Minnesota. Another 0-2 performance would really be damaging to Iowa's psyche. That said, I'm going with Illinois as the team that needs a win more this week. At least Iowa has been competitive in its two losses (by a total of four points). Illinois fell apart in the desert against Arizona State and was humiliated on its home field Saturday against a good Louisiana Tech team but not one that should come to Champaign and win by 28 points. Illinois' defensive woes, particularly against the spread, are really unsettling. Confidence has to be a little shaky, and it's really important that the defense regains its swagger this week against Penn State, which doesn't run an up-tempo spread but seems to be finding its groove with Bill O'Brien's pro-style system. Speaking of offense, Illinois must start figuring out who it will be and who it will count on to attack opponents. Tim Beckman is sticking with quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase as his starter, and Saturday is a big game for the junior. Penn State will come in fired up after Beckman's roster poaching attempt this summer. With road games upcoming at Wisconsin and at Michigan, Illinois needs to defend its home turf and start Big Ten play 1-0.