IOWA CITY, Iowa – At Stanford, Ron Turner had Cal. At Southern Cal, it was UCLA and Notre Dame. At Texas A&M, it was Texas. At Pitt, it was Penn State.
At each of Turner's college stops, he could point at another school and shout "Rival!"
"I think it's good and it's healthy to have somebody that you look at as a big rival," Turner said. "I don't know if there is one here."
At Illinois, the rival situation is as complicated as the one at quarterback.
Some suggest it's Michigan. Others say Northwestern.
Guess No. 3 is Iowa, which plays host to the Illini today at Kinnick Stadium.
Geographically, the Hawkeyes makes sense. Historically, the Hawkeyes make sense. Competitively, the Hawkeyes make sense.
"This is one to me that I've heard a lot about that I think is a huge one," Turner said.
At some schools, the rival goes on the schedule in big letters. Some use red ink just to make sure.
But the first-year Illinois staff hasn't come up with a red-letter game.
"I don't know why," Turner said. "This is one that with this staff could develop into that."
Turner enjoyed his past rivalries.
"They were fun," Turner said. "At Pitt, there was nothing like Pitt-Penn State week. At USC, there was nothing like SC-UCLA or SC-Notre Dame. SC actually had two of them. Sometimes you played them back to back. That was a little interesting. There's nothing like those weeks. You can feel the atmosphere all week. Cal-Stanford. That rivalry is as big as any of them."
Turner isn't the only UI coach with rivalries in his past.
Running backs coach Jim Helms felt both sides of Texas-Texas A&M. He played for the Longhorns and coached the Aggies.
Defensive coordinator Tim Kish worked eight seasons at Army. The Cadets play this little game every year against Navy.
"It encompassed the world," Kish said. "People sent letters and tapes to the kids. It was a big deal. We wore patches for the different infantry divisions."
Iowa coach Hayden Fry won't single out Illinois, or any team, as his rival. The Hawkeyes just played Iowa State, who some might consider their rival. But Iowa has dominated the series, winning the last 15.
The Illinois-Iowa series fits the "rival" description better. Neither team has dominated the series in recent years, with Fry going 8-8 against the Illini.
The last two times games between the teams were in Iowa City, the Illini won by a combined 75-10.
"I think they're going to remember us coming into Iowa two years ago and putting it on them," UI offensive guard Brent Taylor said. "I don't think Iowa is going to overlook us. They're going to be prepared to get the best shot we've got."
Despite the lopsided home losses, Fry won't point to Illinois.
"We've never looked at any specific game as being our biggest," Fry said. "I think a coach really makes a mistake if he tries to overemphasize one particular game."
The Illinois players must be listening to Fry. Ask them about rivals and they won't pick on the Hawkeyes.
First, there's the diplomat:
"I approach every game the same," Taylor said. "Every game, there's a rivalry in the Big Ten. We're in a conference where there are very few sleepers. You try to build a rivalry with every team."
Others are more blunt about it:
"I don't have any animosity toward Iowa," Illini defensive end Jeff Weisse said. "I hate everybody. If they're in the opposite color jersey, I hate them."
At Aurora West High School, Weisse had a rival: St. Charles.
"All the rich kids over there," Weisse said, "they didn't like us guys from Aurora too much."
When he came to college, Weisse said the rivalry talk had to stop.
"You can't afford to get caught up in all the hype about rivalries and how these teams hate each other," Weisse said. "You've got to focus on practice."
So, the focus in practice wasn't on the rivalry. The Illinois players worked to improve their execution and cut mistakes.
The team also broke in a new starting quarterback. After a shaky first practice on Tuesday, Tim Lavery finished the week well.
"He's gotten better each day," Turner said. "He's had a good week, and that's what we're looking for."
Just like they want to avoid the rivalry talk, the UI players won't dwell on the quarterback change. They've seen this before, when Johhny Johnson and Scott Weaver played musical starter.
When asked about Lavery and Mark Hoekstra, Taylor is again a diplomat.
"We've got confidence in both of them," Taylor said. "At my position, no matter who's back there, we've got to block and protect.
"I don't think there's any picking sides. That was a tough situation we had with Johnny and Scott. I see us going with whatever the coaches decide and playing our hearts out for whoever's back there."
Again, Weisse gets to the point.
"I don't care who's back there," Weisse said. "I want to win."
Iowa's Matt Sherman leads the Big Ten in passing efficiency. Benched Illinois quarterback Mark Hoekstra isn't even listed. Sherman's 8:2 touchdown to interception ratio is impressive. Edge to Iowa.
Tough to argue with a running back gaining 9.6 yards a carry, even if it came against a bunch of stiffs. Illinois' No. 2 rusher is wide receiver George McDonald-Ashford. Edge to Iowa.
After a slow start, Tim Dwight had three touchdown receptions last week against Iowa State. Damon Gibson is a nice alternative and thanks to Dwight gets open plenty. Edge to Iowa.
The Hawkeyes averaged 61 points and 619 yards in their first three games. Somebody is doing some blocking to pile up those kind of numbers. Illinois line hurt by injury to center Tom Schau. Edge to Iowa.
Because of an ankle injury to Ryan Murphy, the Illini will try Tuscola's Fred Wakefield and Karleton Thomas at left end. Iowa tackle Jared DeVries is one of the best in the Big Ten. Edge to Iowa.
Michael Young, Danny Clark and David James have played well in the first three games. Iowa is hurt by a season-ending injury to Vernon Rollins, its top linebacker. Edge to Illinois.
Iowa lost Tom Knight to the National Football League and still is tough to throw against. Corner Plez Atkins and safety Kerry Cooks are All-Big Ten candidates. Edge to Iowa.
Iowa's Hayden Fry has been at this a long time. The guess is he'll have a few of his tricks in store for Illinois coach Ron Turner. Fry just worked his 400th game as a college head coach. This is Turner's 15th game. Edge to Iowa.
The Hawkeyes are back home and finally have an opponent the fans can get excited about. Playing Tulsa and Northern Iowa at home had to be a yawner for the Iowa fans. Edge to Iowa.
As great as the Hawkeyes have looked in their first three games, there's still something to be said for playing quality competition. Iowa hasn't played a team as good as Illinois. It will show as the Illini stay closer than expected before Iowa wins 34-24.