Predictions: Northwestern vs. Eastern Illinois

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The Wildcats stunned the college football world with a season-opening 16-6 victory over Stanford. Northwestern looks to improve to 2-0 in their patriotic uniforms Saturday against Eastern Illinois. Game time is 3 PM central, and our coverage begins at 2 on WNUR 89.3.

Here are our broadcasters’ predictions for and players to watch in tomorrow’s game:

Josh Burton (@josh_burton1): Northwestern 24, Eastern Illinois 10

Coming off their huge win over Stanford, the Wildcats might get a little complacent against a lesser Eastern Illinois team, but I think they’ll be able to keep up the intensity and effort for the second-straight week. Clayton Thorson will look more comfortable running the offense while Justin Jackson will continue to run through the opposing defense.

Player to Watch: Anthony Walker, LB, Northwestern. The redshirt sophomore linebacker dominated Stanford’s offense all game on Saturday, completely disrupting the Cardinal’s flow. He made open-field tackles, deflected passes and even recovered a fumble. It’ll be exciting to see what he can do this weekend, if just to prove that he’s here to stay as a defensive force and not a one-week fluke.

Sam Rudnick (@luhtammer): Northwestern 31, Eastern Illinois 10

With the possibility of a lapse in between a huge upset win over Stanford and a key road contest with Duke, Northwestern will have to focus on the task at hand and continue to improve offensively. After a slow start, Northwestern will find its way behind a strong running game and begin to open it up through the air.

Player to Watch: Walker. He was a maniac last week against Stanford, making huge plays all game to anchor an impressive defensive performance. Look for him to have a field day tackling Panther ball carriers and maybe finally come down with a big interception.

Jason Dorow (@jasondorow): Northwestern 34, Eastern Illinois 10

After the Stanford victory, fans might be expecting a blowout against an FCS opponent. The Wildcat offense isn’t ready to really light up the scoreboard yet though. Northwestern gradually seals a win on a progressive afternoon for Clayton Thorson.

Player to watch: Dan Vitale, SB, Northwestern. Pat Fitzgerald was not satisfied with the performance from his superbacks last Saturday, and with limited options at wide receiver, Thorson will need help from Vitale in the passing game this year.

Jesse Kirsch (@JesseRKirsch): Northwestern 27, Eastern Illinois 10

The Wildcats played solid on both sides of the ball against Stanford last week. With the exception of a couple could-have-been-interceptions, the offense flowed and they will surely grow each week–D was no problem, so roll on.

Player to watch: Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern. ‘Nuff said.

Ian McCafferty (@Itmccaf52): Northwestern 30, Eastern Illinois 13

The defense takes a slight step back from last week, but still dominates EIU for most of the game. Justin Jackson rushes for 150 yards and two touchdowns, while Clayton Thorson looks much more comfortable throwing the ball. The Wildcats easily roll the Panthers.

Player to Watch: Walker. He had a huge day against Stanford last week and was named Big Ten defensive player of the week. Look for him to continue that performance against an inferior opponent.

Ari Ross (@aross50): Game Broadcaster

This has all the makings of a trap game for Northwestern. Eastern Illinois is a team they can easily overlook, the Panthers turned the ball over five times against Western Illinois, losing 33-5 even though they out-gained WIU. However, EIU has some playmakers on both sides of the ball that could give Northwestern trouble, even though on paper Northwestern is the better team.

Player to Watch: Jalen Whitlow, QB, EIU. Whitlow passed for over 2000 and rushed for over 700 last season. Northwestern’s had trouble with mobile quarterbacks in the past (see last year’s Cal game), and if Whitlow gets loose, the Wildcats’ defense could be in for a long day.

Zach Pereles (@zach_pereles): Northwestern 30, Eastern Illinois 7

Northwestern is simply a better team than Eastern Illinois. The Wildcats should have their way up front; I’m more interested in seeing how Clayton Thorson plays.

Player to watch: Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern. He looked good at times and made some big-time throws on third downs against Stanford, but was up-and-down with his accuracy (literally) and was lucky to not have been picked off. I’d like to see him be much more efficient this week.

Ryan Fish (@RyanMFish): Northwestern 31, Eastern Illinois 10

The last thing Northwestern needs after the exhilarating upset over Stanford is a letdown, and this would be a big one. This defense looks ferocious, however, and Clayton Thorson should be able to make more plays against the Panthers defense. The ‘Cats (hopefully) should expect takeaways and touchdowns.

Player to watch: Walker. He flew all over the field last week, bottling up Stanford’s run game and causing havoc for the Cardinal all afternoon long. He won B1G Defensive Player of the Week after that performance, and he could very well have that distinction again sometime soon.

Will Greer (@willy_nillie): Northwestern 38, Eastern Illinois 6

Almost every power conference team plays an out-of-conference cupcake. Northwestern’s 2015 cupcake happens to come with extra icing.

Player to watch: Thorson. He will be able to take more risks and throw the ball down the field against an outmatched Eastern Illinois secondary. It will be important for him to continue to gain confidence ahead of next week’s crucial matchup at Duke.

Ben Goren (@BenG412): Northwestern 31, Eastern Illinois 3

So EIU lost 33-5 last week. To Western Illinois.  Woooooooooooof.

Player to Watch: Matt Alviti, QB, Northwestern. The real question is how long Clayton Thorson will stay in the game and if/when he comes out, how will his backup/backups look.

Michael Stern (@michaeljstern23): Northwestern 34, Eastern Illinois 17

The ‘Cats double up the Panthers, as Clayton Thorson takes over with short passes behind a banged-up offensive line. The Wildcats take a big lead early and let the backups play in the second half of their second straight win.

Player to Watch: Christian Jones, WR, Northwestern: Jones caught everything he could Saturday, but he appeared frustrated at times with Thorson’s inaccuracy. It’s crucial for Jones to develop a strong rapport with his young quarterback before the Big Ten schedule, and this game is a great opportunity to do so.

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