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It's been a rough year for Iowa running back Jordan Canzeri, who has been injured most of the football season.

He's now trying to come back from a high ankle sprain suffered at Maryland Oct. 18.

Canzeri was cleared to play in last week's 51-14 loss at Minnesota, but coach Kirk Ferentz decided to rest him when that game got out of hand.

"I don't think putting Walter Payton in there would have changed things on Saturday," Ferentz said.

Canzeri is expected to give it a go in Saturday's 11 a.m. game at Illinois.

SPEAKING OF ILLINOIS

The seeds to Tim Beckman's desire to be a football coach were planted in the shadow of Kinnick Stadium.

The Illinois coach's father, Dave, was an offensive line coach for Bob Commings at Iowa from 1974 to 1978. Tim Beckman attended elementary school and started junior high in Iowa City.

"It was a great time in my life, being around the sport," Beckman said. "It built, at least for me, a liking to want to become a head football coach or involved in this profession. It wasn't the best of years for the Hawkeyes back then. But as a young son, I can't tell you how influential it was to see some of the greats dad was able to coach against. It was an outstanding experience."

Beckman got to take an occasional road trip to see his father's team play. One of them was to Champaign, Ill., in 1976 to see Iowa lose at Illinois 24-6.

"We tried to be involved as much as we could," said Beckman, whose third Illinois team hosts the Hawkeyes on Saturday back in the same Memorial Stadium he first visited 38 years ago.

SPEARMAN BACK

Iowa sophomore linebacker Reggie Spearman returns to the field this week. He was suspended the previous two games after getting arrested Oct. 25 and charged with OWI. Spearman was a starter when he was suspended. He's now listed as a backup to Josey Jewell at weakside linebacker.

"There's competition at every position," Ferentz said. "He started the season mainly because Josey Jewell was injured with a broken bone in his hand (suffered the week of the season opener against Northern Iowa) and was out. That kind of made the competition one-sided. The flip of that is Josey has won it by default this time. So we'll let those two guys compete, but Josey will start the game and we'll play it from there."

Spearman, who attended Simeon in Chicago, originally committed to Illinois but later flipped to Iowa.

NEW FACES

Iowa meets Illinois for the first time since 2008 on Saturday, making this game preparation unique compared to facing a foe on an annual basis. Ferentz compares it to getting ready for a nonconference opponent you don't play every year.

"That's the parallel I'd draw," Ferentz said. "I don't think any of our players have been in that stadium, at least as college players. We know some of the names (of Illinois players), just through proximity. As far as competing against them, it's totally new for us."

BYE BLUES

Iowa will be playing its fourth straight opponent coming off a bye week.

"We seem to be the object of quirks," Ferentz said. "You can use that as a crutch, but it still gets down to who plays the best on Saturday."

Northwestern also has four games against teams coming off bye weeks this season. Ohio State does it three times, Michigan, Michigan State, Maryland and Indiana twice. Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Rutgers do it once and Purdue and Penn State avoid it all together.

Ferentz acknowledged that Illinois has had time to heal with a week off. That includes quarterback WesLunt, who will play for the first time since breaking his leg Oct. 4.

"We have ample time to get ready," Ferentz said. "It's not like this game is played on Wednesday or Thursday. It's all about preparation and, most important, what we do at 11 a.m. Saturday."

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