Illinois football earned some good will by playing three top 25 teams close in the season's first six games. When the Illini (3-3 overall, 1-2 in the Big Ten) hosts Indiana (4-2, 0-2), Illinois is a 14-point favorite, so it's win or else to keep the good vibes rolling. "We have to play the way we played in the last six weeks, but we have to change the result,'' said Illinois coach Ron Zook. "Our whole thing is keep doing the things we're done and change the results.''
Illinois football earned some good will by playing three top 25 teams close in the season's first six games.
When the Illini (3-3 overall, 1-2 in the Big Ten) hosts Indiana (4-2, 0-2) on Saturday (11 a.m., Big Ten Network), Illinois is a 14-point favorite, so it's win or else to keep the good vibes rolling.
"We have to play the way we played in the last six weeks, but we have to change the result,'' said Illinois coach Ron Zook. "Our whole thing is keep doing the things we're done and change the results.''
While Illinois is primed for a strong run in the season's second half -- none of the final six opponents appeared in this week's top 25 poll -- there's no reason for a letdown this weekend, players said, because the Illini fell 27-14 at Indiana a year ago. In Zook's first five seasons here, the Illini are 2-3 against Indiana.
"These guys are hungry,'' Zook said. "They're hurt and disappointed where we're at right now. We can play great and all that kind of stuff. It's still about winning games. Until we win consistently, that's the goal of this football team.''
Under Zook, Illinois has a history of losing home games just when the Illini appeared ready to gain momentum. In 2006 after a road win at Michigan State, Illinois dropped home games against Indiana and Ohio. After a win at Michigan in 2008, the Illini lost the next week to Minnesota on homecoming weekend in Memorial Stadium.
"It's a crucial time of the season,'' said quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. "It would be a great momentum builder for the second half of the season to start off with a win at home. If we start off on a good foot, the sky is the limit for the last six games.''
SHOOTOUT: Indiana scored 35 points or more in five of its six games. Only a 38-10 loss to Ohio State hurt Indiana's scoring average of 34.2 points per game, so Illinois might need to score points to keep pace with the Hoosiers.
"I hope it's not a shootout,'' Zook said. "This is a big, big test. The biggest thing is to keep the ball away from (Indiana) as much as we can. The best way to stop that offense is with our offense.''
Illinois ranks 10th in scoring offense in the Big Ten at 21.3 points per game.
Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell leads the Big Ten with 1,858 yards with 16 touchdowns and three interceptions. The senior was one of the last four starting quarterbacks in the nation to throw an interception.
INJURY REPORT: Illini sophomore cornerback Terry Hawthorne may start this week. He's played the last two games but didn't start because he's been recovering from surgery to repair a stress fracture. Fullback Zach Becker (foot fracture) played six snaps last week and will slowly add more work this week.
Guard Jack Cornell is fine after spraining his knee last weekend. Cornell, Hugh Thornton and Randall Hunt share time at the two guard spots.
ETC.: Just how rare was defensive tackle Corey Liuget's 11 tackles against Michigan State? They were the most by an Illinois defensive lineman since Mike O'Brien had 12 against Missouri in 2002. An Illini defensive tackle hadn't made more tackles since Chad Copher finished with 12 against Penn State in 1994. … A crowd between 50,000 and 55,000 is expected for the Indiana game, which is Illinois' homecoming.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.