By Paul M. Banks and Paul Schmidt
(PMB) What a difference a week makes. Before last Saturday, this game was looking pretty close to meaningless. Now there’s bowl aspirations on both sides, both teams are riding momentum from victories, and there’s a brand new Land of Lincoln trophy on the line. But here’s the thing I don’t get. You’re the betting man of the two of us, so please tell me- Why is 3-6 Illinois a 4 pt. favorite over 6-4 Northwestern?
That seems ridiculous given a.) the records b.) the underdog just gave previously #8 Iowa their first loss of the season in Iowa City, much more impressive than beating a very mediocre Minnesota team on the road c.) NU owns this series of late, Illinois’ only recent wins have come when they’re having a fluky “Champaign Campaign” season (’01 and ’07) And the team with the better record has won 10 of the last 11.
Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald’s response to being underdogs:
“If I were to use that as motivation I’d have to probably use it every week so I’d be beating a dead horse.”
(PS) Well, you’re falling into a trap there. Vegas only sets the line in order to get equal amounts of action on either side of it. It minimizes their losses. It’s really a common mistake that everyone makes, that Vegas thinks one team is the favorite and the other isn’t. I suppose that it would be more accurate to say the betting public thinks the Illini are a favorite, but even that isn’t all that accurate, because half of the action is still going to the Northwestern side of the ledger.
But, for the sake of argument, I’ll grant the premise. And the premise is sound. Illinois IS the better team, even if they haven’t played like it prior to these past couple of weeks. As for Northwestern’s “big win”, it’s against a pretty fraudulent Iowa team (coming from someone who had defended them)…so I don’t know if you can put much stock into that. I also think that the Illini, as a home team, will fill Memorial Stadium, and actually provide a difficult environment for Northwestern to play in. Remember, they aren’t all that used to playing in full stadiums (I know, last week aside…).
(Special thanks to our friends at Spread Far the Fame for the picture. See this link for more)
And to see another Pat Fitzgerald soundbite featured in the Chicago Sun-Times blog (yes, some TSB self-promotion) click here
(PMB) Oooh, a little shot there at Northwestern’s home attendance. Hey the glass at Ryan Field isn’t half-empty….it’s more like 5/8 or 3/4 empty.
I can’t believe I wrote that Illinois might have the nation’s best receiving corps back in August. A lot of people thought that actually. But well, the Illini passing game sucks, and has sucked the whole season. Essentially making this group the biggest disappointment, in a season filled with tremendous disappointments. I asked Fitz about them on Monday, phrasing my question more professionally of course. He was quite political in his answer
“I see a lot of talent and I see guys that are making plays all over the place. Maybe not from a stats standpoint compared to expectations from outside of the program but I see a group that is playing well. They’re deep, they play six or seven guys, and you include Michael (Hoomanawanui), who I know has been banged up at tight end and I’m not even going to try to pronounce his last name. He’s as athletic of a big guy as there is in this league.”
The Illini are dead last in the Big Ten in scoring offense, passing offense and passing efficiency Your take?
(PMB) I just picked up my cat from her surgery today (she’s fine- all is well and great) so your animal cruelty joke is extremely offensive sir!