This border rivalry represents a real missed opportunity, and not only for the Hawkeyes and Illini and trophy-seekers.
Allow me to go hyper-local for a moment and ask: “How did the Quad Cities ever let this game get away after 1899?”
And, “How did they never find a way to get it back?”
This could be the annual home to the Midwest’s largest outdoor cocktail party. Or even the world — the name’s available.
Full disclosure: Hawkeye Headquarters is based at WHBF in Rock Island, which also happens to be the home of the first game of this series. (You also can catch Adam Rossow’s reports on WHO in Des Moines and KCAU in Sioux City.)
They couldn’t play the game at Douglas Park now. The renovations in recent years are great, but the capacity isn’t there.
It probably isn’t at Lindberg Stadium at Augustana College, either, which is likely the next best choice. They hosted the NFL Draft event there this year, and there’s something to be said for exclusivity. Plus, temporary bleachers for major sporting events are here to stay.
It would require someone to sacrifice a home game like the Jacksonville Jaguars do for London and the Los Angeles Chargers just did for Mexico City, but let’s be honest: I attended last year’s game in Champaign and it was pretty empty well before 63-0 was written on the wall (but not before 64-0 was declared in the “totally irrelevant prediction”). And great seats were still available this week in Iowa City, for one team coming off a huge rivalry win — with losses by a total of 14 points to three teams ahead of them in the rankings — and another on a four-game winning streak.
This rivalry needs a boost. Maybe a stunt in the QC can find a way to provide it. 😉
As Kirk Ferentz noted this week…
And the Quad Cities is way closer to Iowa City than Champaign, a fact that many an Illini fan don’t understand when a Rock Island native’s loyalties lie across a river that is very large, yet very crossable (just don’t ford it, Oregon Trail-style — or use a log).
It’s not uncommon. In fact, Rock Island County Hawkeyes fans outnumbered Illini fans 2-to-1 in a 2014 study.
Yes, there are bridges — with one years in the making that was announced just yesterday as totally “constructable,” so that’s comforting — and I’ve often thought that a bridge trophy would be perfect for this rivalry. The Quad Cities USA might be “joined by a river” but the two states are definitely divided by it — it’s literally the border.
You could even give the winner — or perhaps the loser — the actual I-74 bridge when the new one is ready. Whoever loses in the year the project is finally finished is left holding the bag to remove it. After all, the government tried to give away the last Iowa-Illinois crossing that was replaced across the Mississippi. They blew it up instead.
100 years later, Illinois beat Iowa. It wasn’t the first time — the overall series is 38-34-2 Illini — but it was the last time in Iowa City.
Iowa is currently in the midst of matching the school-best 5-game win streak. Take it to six and that’s a record.
Let’s see if the experts think these Hawkeyes can make history.
Once again, we are thrilled to have our predictions on Hawkeye Headquarters brought to you by Draft Day Sports Lounge inside Rhythm City Casino, “where you can grab a bite and make live bets!”
The Hawkeyes’ all-time leader in receptions is back for a third season of picks.
Kevonte Martin-Manley: Iowa 24, Illinois 7
Steve Batterson: Iowa 31, Illinois 24. This won’t be easy, but the Hawkeyes have a little too much defense for Illinois. Not unlike the Minnesota game last week, I feel like Iowa should be able to slow the Illini ground game, creating a one-dimensional look that typically plays into the Hawkeyes’ favor. Ball security is priority one for the Hawkeyes this week and if they can avoid turnovers, Iowa should be able to keep Illinois winless in a venue where it last won in 1999.
Steven Lassan: Iowa
Mitch Light: Iowa
Mark Ross: Iowa
Dennis Dodd: Iowa
Jerry Palm: Iowa
Tom Fornelli: Iowa
Chip Patterson: Iowa
Barton Simmons: Iowa
Barrett Sallee: Iowa
Ben Kercheval: Iowa
Iowa 29, Illinois 25
David Kenyon: Iowa 31, Illinois 21
Ralph D. Russo: Iowa 24, Illinois 13
Bill Bender: Iowa 27, Illinois 17
Bill Connelly: Iowa 33, Illinois 17
Molly Geary: Iowa
Max Meyer: Iowa
Michael Shapiro: Iowa
Laken Litman: Iowa
Ross Dellenger: Iowa
Pat Forde: Iowa
Lorenzo Arguello: Iowa
Hawkeye State predictions
Marc Morehouse: Iowa 27, Illinois 17
Scott Dochterman: Iowa 34, Illinois 10
SI’s Hawkeye Maven
John Bohnenkamp: Iowa 24, Illinois 10
Brendan Stiles: Iowa 34, Illinois 16
John Patchett: Iowa 31, Illinois 17
Tyler Tjelmeland: Iowa 38, Illinois 14
Jack Brandsgard: Iowa 27, Illinois 13
Chad Leistikow: Iowa 31, Illinois 10
Go Iowa Awesome
Mark Hasty: Iowa 34, Illinois 17
Rob Howe: Iowa 30, Illinois 17
Black Heart Gold Pants
JPinIC: Iowa 24, Illinois 13
Jerry Scherwin: Iowa 24, Illinois 17
Tnels20: Iowa 30, Illinois 16
Matt Cabel: Iowa 24, Illinois 17
BoilerHawk: Iowa 30, Illinois 7
Benjamin Ross: Iowa 41, Illinois 14
Doug Saye: Iowa 34, Illinois 14
Matt Reisener: Iowa 27, Illinois 10
DC: Iowa 24, Illinois 7
Adam Hensley: Iowa 27, Illinois 13
Cody Hills: Iowa 24, Illinois 14
And finally, the totally irrelevant prediction based on playing EA Sports’ NCAA Football 2004 on a PS2, as is the tradition since 2015.
Ryan Jaster: Hawkeyes 24, Illinois 22. The Hawkeyes build a 21-7 lead with a sack-happy defense and precision play-action passing. But two big plays bring the Illini back in the second half. First, an 84-yard interception returned for a touchdown. Second, a 65-yard touchdown pass with around a minute to play, capped by a surprise 2-point conversion that catches the Hawkeyes off-guard. But Iowa has enough time and timeouts left to use the run to set up a big pass play one last time and get into field goal range for the deciding kick. The Illini’s desperation heave at the end is intercepted.
Prognosis: Dan Vasko stands alone. No one else — not national, not regional, not local, not computerized — chose the Illini among the usual expert picks we collect every week. And that should be a bit scary. Yes, the Hawkeyes won 63-0 last year, but Illinois seems like an entirely different team and is rolling. No pain is predicted, but it feels like we might experience some along the way to that win.
Predictions on Hawkeye Headquarters are brought to you by Draft Day Sports Lounge inside Rhythm City Casino, “where you can grab a bite and make live bets!”
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Ryan Jaster writes a weekly predictions column during football season for HawkeyeHQ.com and previously wrote and edited for CBS Sports, the Quad-City Times, ChicagoSports.com and the Chicago Tribune. You can follow his Hawkeye musings at @Hawkologist.