LOL Hat Game Preview: Illinois Fighting Illini vs Northwestern Wildcats

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When the Illinois Fighting Illini football and the Northwestern Wildcats get together, typically the better team wins. We really haven’t seen many upsets in this series lately, as the LOL HAT (Land of Lincoln Hat Trophy) rivalry often goes chalk. Illinois is seeking their first win in this series since 2014, the famous match-up of 5-6 teams that would see one team go on to the post-season, the other home for the holidays.

As it’s Thanksgiving and LOL HAT week, let’s break it all down.

Saturday, Nov. 30

Illinois vs. Northwestern (11 am CT//Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Illinois//FS1, FS1 App)

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The Illini are favored in this game for the first time in a long while, and it’s actually a double digit spread. If you’re making free expert college football picks, you can find the Illini priced most typically at -10 1/2 points. If you want tickets to this game, they are readily available through the box office for as low as $20. In the secondary market, they are dirt cheap. Regardless of the teams’ records, or venue, this game is always poorly attended. As it’s always held on Thanksgiving weekend, people typically have better things to do

TV Segment Preview, yours truly with Jarret Payton on CLTV Sports Feed:

Illini Football Preview

Illinois is playing for their first winning conference season since 2007, and a chance to bring the four game slide against Northwestern to an end. They took a very unorthodox and circuitous route to six wins/bowl eligibility, with a chance at a seventh right there for the taking.

Losing to Eastern Michigan, beating Wisconsin, winning at Michigan State- who saw that as the path to six? Illini football coach Lovie Smith could be sweating on the fitness of cornerback Tony Adams and starting quarterback Brandon Peters. The latter has been as key as anybody to this season’s massive turnaround.

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Peters can be maddening sometimes with all the turnovers he tosses sometimes, but his gunslinger mentality is huge. Like any good outside shooter in basketball, he has a short memory on his mistakes and he just keeps making plays. Peters, plus the new added depth at the skill positions this season has gotten the offense to finally click in both facets.

What makes Illini football what it is in 2019 though is the turnover margin. No other defense in the nation can consistently get the ball back like this Illini football team can. It’s why Illinois revenue sports can finally have nice things again, with a bid to the Red Box or Pinstripe Bowl upcoming.

For the Illini football bowl summary and history, go to this link.

Northwestern Wildcats Preview

As the Illini are rising, NU is falling. The Wildcats are already set for their worst season since 2002, and a loss here gives them a bottom that you would have to go all the way back to the Francis Peay era, 1989, in order to be matched.

Northwestern has by some measures the worst offense in the nation, or at least among the worst. In the passing game, they are absolute bottom, and stuck in the basement by a very significant margin. It’s fair to say that this might be the final game for Quarterbacks Coach and Offensive Coordinator Mick McCall.

Or at least it should be. If McCall survives this season, then you can best be sure his job could survive a nuclear winter. NU has plenty of stellar defensive playmakers, like all-time sack leader Joe Gaziano and Baby Fitz middle linebacker Paddy Fisher.

Unfortunately, the offensive side of the ball has kept them from being all that they can be. Nevertheless, the Illini will have plenty of NU defensive playmakers to account for and game plan around.

Prediction: Illini Football 27, Northwestern 10

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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