#23 Northwestern Wildcats at Illini Football Game Preview, Prediction

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Illini football welcomes their in-state rival, the 23rd-ranked Northwestern Wildcats, to Memorial Stadium on Saturday to close out what has been an utterly disastrous season. It’s the battle for the Land of Lincoln Trophy (3 pm CT, FS1) and the final game for 10 Illinois seniors. Yes, just ten seniors, as the Illini are one of the youngest teams in the nation, and arguably the youngest in school history.

Northwestern comes in heavily favored, by 16.5 points actually, to pick up win number nine on the season. If NU then wins their bowl game, they would finish with ten wins on the season, which would tie a school record set on three previous occasions (1995, 2012, 2015).

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We previewed this game, and talked the state of both Northwestern and Illini football on CLTV Sports Feed with Jarrett Payton this week.

Watch the video segment with @PaytonSun below:

 #23 Northwestern synopsis:

With 451 more rushing yards, senior running back and four year starter Justin Jackson will surpass Archie Griffin as the second most prolific rusher in B1G history. Yes, it’s very well within the realm of possibility that “the ball carrier” a.k.a. “bread and butter” could end up higher on the chart than the two time Heisman Trophy winner.

He has the perfect set-up for potentially getting there too.

In 2010, Illinois ran up the score on Northwestern in the famous Wrigley Field “the wall space is too small, so everyone must drive in the same direction” game.

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Mikel LeShoure put up 330 yards, an Illini football record in that rivalry game, and given the weakness of this Illinois team’s run defense, NU might be poised for payback time.

Then it all comes down to who NU gets in the Holiday/Foster Farms/Outback/Music City/Citrus Bowl. Maybe they take on a defensive front seven that treats the bowl game like an exhibition match?

On the other side of the ball, for Illini football fans still unaware of Paddy Fisher, well get acquainted, because he’s a name you’re going to hear a lot these next few years.

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Illini football synopsis:

Year two of the Lovie Smith era has been even worse than year one, and you can definitely say that things are certainly trending in the wrong direction right now. Lovie inherited a 5-7 team, one that went to a bowl game the previous season. In 2016, he guided Illini football to a 3-9 record in year one, and it looks like 2-10 in year two is all but certain.

The Smith experiment has been a total disaster up to this point, but I still hope he gets/stays interested in seeing this thing through.

We knew this was going to be a very long rebuilding process, so he really should get four years (maybe five since he came in late and behind the 8-ball) to see what he can make of this mess.

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Although the Smith era has been unwatchable (and that’s being nice) for most of the B1G games, and just plain awful in general up to this point, I still maintain that Josh Whitman did the absolute right thing by making an outside-the-box, splash hire here. You had to do something to shake it up, maybe over time this will prove to be more of a fit.

Although I really don’t see any legitimate reason to think that 2018 will be any better, or anything even remotely close to competitive and entertaining, Smith has the CV and credentials that you got to respect him and allot him the full opportunity to see what he can do. Whitman has full faith and confidence in him, and he stated that on Monday.

Although to be fair, I have no idea where this idea came from that national media having been saying that Smith was on the hot seat/calling for his dismissal. I have not seen even one op-ed in this vein, so I don’t get why the Illini community felt the need to push back against this narrative. All they did was beat up a straw man argument.

Prediction: #23 Northwestern 37, Illini Football 9

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.

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