Bielema told SiriusXM Big Ten radio that Altmyer, who suffered a head injury Nov. 4 at Minnesota, went through the concussion protocol and was cleared Tuesday.
John Paddock replaced Altmyer against Minnesota and led the game-winning touchdown drive in the final minute. Paddock, a transfer from Ball State, set a Memorial Stadium record last week when he passed for 507 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-45 overtime win over Indiana.
“He was our starting quarterback before he left [the Minnesota game], and that’s where I see it now,” Bielema told hosts Matt Schick and Anthony Herron. “The best part that we have is if there’s any part of that that gets gray, we have a guy who has proven he can play and do some good things. Super excited about both of those guys.”
Bielema said Altmyer, a transfer from Ole Miss, was nearly cleared for Indiana but held out as a precaution. Altmyer has 1,883 passing yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for the Illini this season, while completing 64.8 percent of his attempts. He has 10 touchdowns and only three interceptions in his previous six games.
“He had done a really good job, we had won some games on the road, and it was really starting to come around with him,” Bielema said. “But I will tell you our guys have tremendous faith in both of them, and however the cards play out on Saturday, it will be fun to watch. When you’re playing Iowa, anything can happen, and you need great bodies playing good football everywhere.”
Illinois (5-5) is seeking its first three-game win streak since a six-game surge last season.