WNUR Predictions: #16 Northwestern vs. Illinois
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
Ben Goren: Northwestern 64 Illinois 3.
Tim Balk (@timbalk): NU 16, Illinois 7
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.
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.