4 storylines for IU’s game at Illinois

1. Questions at quarterback
The position is unclear for both teams entering Saturday’s noon kickoff. After Illinois seemingly made a permanent change to third-string quarterback Cam Thomas last week at Purdue, the freshman may not be available against IU. According to Mark Tupper of the Herald-Review, coach Lovie Smith told the Illini Quarterback Club on Friday that Thomas probably won’t play vs. IU due to an unspecified injury. If that’s the case, Illinois will once again turn to Jeff George Jr., who has completed 52 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and eight interceptions. IU’s quarterback play is also in question. If injured starter Peyton Ramsey can’t go, backup Richard Lagow will make his second straight start.

2. Making Simmie Cobbs a factor
IU offensive coordinator Mike DeBord knows Lovie Smith well, having spent three years on Smith’s staff with the Chicago Bears. Smith and the Illini use plenty of man coverage, which could create some tempting one-on-one matchups for Indiana receiver Simmie Cobbs. The redshirt junior has played particularly well during the past two games, over which he has 15 catches for 200 yards and three touchdowns. Getting him the ball early and often should be a key to an IU win.

3. Taking advantage of takeaways
IU coach Tom Allen lamented his defense’s inability to pick up two Wisconsin fumbles during last week’s game. It was a continuing trend for the Hoosiers, who haven’t consistently been able to pry the ball from opposing offenses. The Hoosiers enter play ranked dead last in the Big Ten with only seven takeaways in nine games. On the other hand, no Big Ten team has been more turnover prone than Illinois, which has a league-worst 19 turnovers, including 15 interceptions. The Hoosiers need to get greedy against the lesser foe.

4. Room to run?
Poor offensive line play and a lack of a ground attack have kept Indiana at the bottom of the Big Ten with only 114.5 rushing yards per game. Perhaps this week the Hoosiers find some traction. Illinois is allowing a Big Ten-worst 205.7 rushing yards per game and 18 total rushing touchdowns. IU running back Morgan Ellison returned from a one-week injury absence last Saturday and rushed for only 17 yards on six carries against Wisconsin. This week, he might be able to break a few more long runs.