There's no place like home to give your team the edge over the opposition, right?
Not so, says Illinois coach John Mackovic, whose fifth-ranked Illini are host to No. 13 Iowa today."Iowa has played some big games, too, beating Michigan and Michigan State on the road," Mackovic said. "I fully expect that it will be one of those rough, hard-hitting Big Ten games."
Illinois and Iowa, both 6-1, are vying for the inside track to the Rose Bowl. Each is 4-0 in the Big Ten and because of the Rose Bowl factor, there's plenty of excitement.
But there's also plenty of tension.
Illinois fans blame an Iowa recruiter for touching off a lengthy NCAA probe of the Illini basketball program.
Illinois quarterback Jason Verduzco and his teammates, however, have tried to ignore the distractions.
"You don't want to get involved with all that, but you know this is a big game," Verduzco said. "I'm sure everybody is really getting hyped-up out there."
Verduzco, a sophomore who took over the team this season, has completed 103 of 207 passes for 1,475 yards and nine touchdowns, while being intercepted seven times.
"My biggest area of improvement is my decision-making - knowing when to throw the ball away, all the little things that put the offense in the best situation to score."
Verduzco has used 11 receivers. But Shawn Wax has been his favorite target with 544 yards in receptions and two touchdowns.
Howard Griffith leads the Illini rushing attack with 574 yards and 11 touchdowns on 108 carries.