For No. 16 Iowa, a win Saturday means a spot in the Big Ten championship game. For Illinois, a win Saturday at Iowa City would seal bowl eligibility.
The Illini's late-season charge has been fueled by two quarterbacks, with usual starter Luke Altmyer set to return this week after senior backup John Paddock did stellar work the past two games.
Last week, Paddock threw for a Memorial Stadium-record 507 yards in his first Illinois start and earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors after leading the Illini (5-5, 3-4) to a 48-45 overtime win over visiting Indiana.
The previous week, Altmyer exited late due to a concussion, and Paddock entered and guided the Illini to the game-winning touchdown drive in a 27-26 victory at Minnesota.
Altmyer was cleared to play on Tuesday, and he will be back under center at Iowa.
Perhaps the Paddock/Altmyer debate doesn't address the biggest question of all: Will Illinois be able to score a touchdown against Iowa (8-2, 5-2) regardless of who's running the offense?
Over the last four weeks, the Hawkeyes have surrendered just one touchdown. For the year, Iowa has given up 11 touchdowns in 10 games while building the nation's third-best scoring defense (12.3 points per game) and fourth-best pass-efficiency defense (100.14 rating).
Iowa's offense hasn't exactly been prolific. Last week's 22-point outburst against Rutgers represented the Hawkeyes' second-biggest Big Ten output this season. To put it a different way: Paddock threw for more yards last week (507) than Iowa quarterback Deacon Hill has thrown for in the last four weeks (441).