WNUR Predictions: #16 Northwestern vs. Illinois

Northwestern University Football against Illinois November 30, 2013 in Champaign, Ill.

Northwestern has two goals on Saturday: reach ten wins, and re-gain the Land of Lincoln Hat. Photo credit: nusports.com.

It’s the last game of the regular season, and Northwestern goes for 10 wins against in-state rival Illinois.

The game starts at 2:30 central from Soldier Field on ESPNU, and our coverage starts at 1:30 on 89.3 FM in Evanston/Chicago and right here online.

Here’s how our broadcasters see Saturday’s game going:

Austin Miller: Northwestern 30, Illinois 13

This is an Illinois team loved by advanced stats, but you know what they say: stats are for losers. The grit, determination, and hard work of this Northwestern side will prove the difference over the pretty boy stat friendly play of Illinois. Northwestern has the intangibles, while Illinois doesn’t. Some say Northwestern’s lucky, but I disagree. It’s Northwestern’s ability to outwork and out-want other teams that’s made them successful.

Player to Watch: Christian Jones, WR Northwestern. The Wildcats’ pass catchers have really struggled this year, and a lot of that is due to Christian Jones struggling with drops. If Jones stops thinking and starts playing, then he should have more success. Football’s a body game, not a mind one.

Zach Pereles (@zach_pereles): Northwestern 17, Illinois 10

Northwestern runs the ball somewhat effectively, the defense plays well– not dominantly like against Wisconsin, but still well enough to get the win– and the Wildcats slug out another one to get to 10 wins.
Key Player: Josh Ferguson, Illinois. He’s a dynamic player in the Illini backfield, and as good as this defensive line has been, it struggled against, of all teams, Purdue. If Ferguson gets going early, this season might end on a sour note.

Ben Goren: Northwestern 64 Illinois 3. 

Hat! Hat hat hat, hat, hat hat hat hat. Hat? Hat hat. HAAAAAAAAAAAAAT.
Player to watch: Deonte Gibson, DE, Nortwestern. Hat hat. Hat hat hat, hat hat *HAT* hat hat. Hat hat.

Tim Balk (@timbalk): NU 16, Illinois 7

I’ve been calling for NU to go 10-2 since week one. Too late to turn back now. 
Player to watch: Wes Lunt, QB, Illinois: Lunt has completed 60% of his passes, thrown 11 touchdown passes and been picked off just once in Illinois’ wins. He’s completed 54% of his passes, tossed three touchdowns and thrown four picks in their losses. 

Ari Ross (@aross50): Northwestern 20, Illinois 6

Anthony Walker and the ‘Cats’ defense shouldn’t have too much trouble with the Illini offense, and could easily score a touchdown or two of their own, but unless their offense figures itself out overnight, it’s not going to be a blowout. If the ‘Cats want to make a New Years’ Six Bowl, as improbable as it may be, Clayton Thorson, Justin Jackson and Mick McCall are going to need get Northwestern’s offense humming and put up a lot of points. 

Player to Watch: Christian Jones, WR, Northwestern. Jones might be Northwestern’s most talented receiver, but he hasn’t played like it this season. In his last regular season game with the ‘Cats, Jones will need to step up and find open space in the Illini defense if Northwestern is to blow out Illinois. 

Max Gelman (@MaxGelman): Northwestern 41, Illinois 6.

After the Illini marching band somehow finagled its way into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, the Wildcats take care of business at Soldier Field. Illinois can be New York’s Big Ten Team if it wants, but Northwestern wears the hat in Chicago.

Player to watch: Terrance Brown, safety, Northwestern. Traveon Henry missed the game against Wisconsin and Brown stepped up in the secondary last week. Henry is still “day to day” but if NU wants to rest him for their bowl game Brown is a nice fill-in.

Michael Stern (@michaeljstern23): Northwestern 17, Illinois 16
Sometimes, it’s just your year. Northwestern gets just enough offense, a defensive/special-teams score, and a bit of good fortune to win game number ten.
Player to watch: Geronimo Allison, WR, Illinois. A week after handling the league’s third-best receiver, Nick VanHoose and company must contain the conference’s fourth-best pass-catcher. Allison is an explosive senior who went for 148 yards and a score against Iowa.

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