#20 Northwestern Wildcats vs Illinois Fighting Illini Game Preview, Prediction



Get ready to LOL! It’s the Land of Lincoln Hat Game, 2018 version, and yes we are publishing our game preview on Sunday night/Monday morning, depending on what part of the world you’re reading this.

Hey, it’s Thanksgiving week and that means just about nobody will be online Tuesday onward. Therefore, we gotta do what we gotta do. We’ll put this Illinois Fighting Illini at #20 Northwestern Wildcats game preview story back at the top later in the week. 


#20 Northwestern Wildcats vs Illinois Fighting Illini FYIs

Kickoff/TV: 230 pm Saturday November 24, Ryan Field, Evanston, Illinois BTN

Spread: -18.5

Radio Preview: We spoke about both teams, and how their season has unfolded on 1620 The Zone, KOZN Omaha this week. Audio is below:

TV Preview: We previewed this game, and discussed how the season has unfolded for both teams on CLTV Sports Feed with Jarret Payton on Wednesday night. Here are the videos below.

Northwestern and Notre Dame segment:

Illini and Michigan/national segment:

Illinois Fighting Illini Preview:

Covering Illinois revenue sports during the Josh Whitman-Lovie Smith-Brad Underwood era brings with it the voices of Illini fans who live in Fantasyland. The phenomenon started back in the Mike Thomas-Tim Beckman/Bill Cubit-John Groce era.

Why? Because for the Illini fan, “there’s no comfort in the truth, pain is the whole you’ll find” (the book of George Michael and Wham! circa 1983). It’s just better to live in denial and that’s what some Illini fans are doing these days.

josh whitman

Other members of the lunatic fringe portion of Illini nation feel the need to lash out at somebody in response to the severe decline of Illini football and men’s basketball that we’re seeing. A common technique is to just shoot the messenger, so if you’re a media member, and you tell it like it is, well, you’ll get flooded with angry tweets, message board hate, internet trolls, comments section angst, threats of bodily harm and the like.

It’s worth noting that the subgroups of lunatic fringe Illini fans (the “everything is awesome” crowd and the “blame the media” herd) sometimes overlap with each other, but other times actually clash with one another.

Kurt Andersen’s book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, a 500 Year History is a must read for the “post truth” and/or “post fact” reality climate that we’re currently living in. 

The New York Times best selling author perfectly describes how America reached this state of mind, and no, it didn’t begin when a D-list reality star rode a racist birther conspiracy theory to the White House, winning the Presidency despite losing the popular vote by three million. 

Once you understand this climate, then you can comprehend why some Illini fans will believe the football program is making progress despite giving up 63 points to Iowa, Maryland and Penn State; to go along with 46+ to Purdue, Wisconsin and Nebraska.


But hey, what do points in a college football game mean when you’re already down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass?

When disturbingly high numbers of Americans believe Barack Obama is a Muslim terrorist born in Kenya, or that the Earth is 6,000 years old, or that 9/11 was an inside job, or that climate change is a Chinese hoax, well you can easily believe just about anything else.

Lovie Smith’s 1-16 record against the Big Ten West, the Illini allowing 386 points in eight league games this season, the -174 point differential in Big Ten play, these are just numbers, statistics, metrics and boolean values, facts which are not subject to opinion.

However, as founding father John Adams said, “facts are stubborn things.” Therefore, many fans would rather not “believe” in facts. “Fan” is short for “fanatic” and thus describes an individual who could easily be susceptible to the spin that is eschewed from Dear Leader.

If you believe Josh Whitman’s hire of Smith has worked out well, and/or that progress has been made this season, well, that’s what you believe and probably no one will ever change your mind about it as long as he is on the job. 


If you’re still drinking the #WeWillWin Kool-Aid at this point, then another 50 point loss on Saturday won’t sway your heart and mind at all. 

You can just continue soaking up Whitman’s corporatespeak cliches, and feel that nothing is wrong when Lovie continues to show very little emotion after a game in which his players didn’t even look remotely interested in playing.

It’s totally fine- just rely on your Kellyanne Conway style “alternative facts,” because “truth is not truth” as Rudy Giuliani said. Like Trump told us: “what you’re seeing and hearing is not really what’s happening,” so if Northwestern wins 56-0 this weekend, don’t worry, be happy. The program is still headed in the right direction if you want to believe it is.


Northwestern Wildcats Preview:

It’s not so much an indictment of the Big Ten West that Northwestern won it, as the division’s ruling hegemon Wisconsin finally took a step downward and NU stepped up to take their place. And the Cats beat them very soundly this season in order to truly cement their deserved place in Indianapolis next week. What is an indictment on the weakness of the division is how early and easily the Wildcats won it.

Everything fell into place for them on November 10, with everyone else beating up on each other in the division, to the point that no one outside of Northwestern is actually good in the Big Ten West. Yes, it’s bizarre that NU is winless in non-conference play, even losing to MAC weakling Akron and the very mediocre at best Duke Blue Devils at home.

Yet here they are having won a school record eight straight conference road games and 14 of their last 15 Big Ten games.

Hey, as we showcased before, some teams are like this in sports. They excel in certain formats of competition and completely flop in others, and the relative strength or weakness of the opposition actually has nothing at to do with it. That’s why these Cats are rather reminiscent of 2016-17 Manchester United.

The Cats have owned this rivalry as of late, and I just don’t see that changing on Saturday. This is a series in which the team with the better record almost always wins and typically those wins are rather one-sided. Expect that trend to continue.


Prediction: Northwestern Wildcats 51, Illinois Fighting Illini 14

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

He also contributes sociopolitical essays to Lineups.com and Chicago NowFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.

Powered by


  1. Minnesota made six trips into Northwestern territory on offense. This is how each of those drives ended:

    2 touchdowns
    1 interception
    1 missed field goal
    2 failed third down conversions
    You’re not going to win a lot of games with that kind of execution.

    Illinois will have same type game as Minnesota.

Speak Your Mind