Northwestern vs. Illinois State: the Brutally Honest Game Preview




Last weekend, I drove to both Ohio State and Notre Dame to cover their openers. Therefore, the Indiana Toll Road and I became quite familiar with one another. This weekend I’m home; back in Chicago’s Lakeview East neighborhood, a placed described by Baseball Prospectus writer Christina Kahrl, in her latest Cubs piece as…there are still enough trust funders knocking around Lakeview, the Corn Belt’s Riviera, to keep their sozzled watch with semi-indifference.

Uh-oh! trust fund babies afoot! And I have to go up Lake Shore Drive to an elite, private University to take in the Northwestern Wildcats home opener! I better a bring a gun to protect myself from the two comma kids (yes, I did make a “Finding Forrester” reference)

Hopefully, I’ll survive the 25 minute trek to NU so we can discuss the game.

Chicago’s official Air and Water Show may have been last month, but I expect airspace over Evanston’s Ryan Field Saturday to be busier than the final approach corridor of O’Hare International Airport. Why? Read on…..

By Paul M. Banks

pat fitzgerald northwestern

Throughout the season, I’ll be bringing you these informative yet blunt game previews of every contest I cover (and a second game that week that interests me); with a heavy focus on my three “home teams” Northwestern, Illinois, Notre Dame, and the Big Ten in general.

Northwestern Synopsis: NU QB Dan Persa’s first career start at quarterback produced some eye-popping numbers. Persa completed 19-of-21 passes (90.5 percent) for 222 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also was the game’s leading rusher with 82 yards. Now Persa takes on a VERY BAD FCS pass defense that surrendered 547 passing yards to lowly Central Missouri last week. Easy to draw a straight line here.

Also Persa is, dare I say it? “Kafkaesque,” as the NU offense has picked right up where last year’s starter, and current Philadelphia Eagle Mike Kafka left off. The offense IS THE QB. Through most of ’09 and the first game of ’10, NU has shown no running game at all, outside of the quarterback himself. So you could say Persa is the Donald Draper of this offense, everything goes through him.

As you can see from the picture above, Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald is a pretty intense, feisty guy. And a couple of my close friends described me as “hard core” or “feisty,” I guess I’m not “sozzled.” Well, I guess Fitz and I share that intensity because we’re from the same hometown. And my pet wildcat Bastet looks pretty intense in her introductory picture too.


Illinois State Synopsis: I coudn’t find any interesting or exciting pictures relating to Redbirds football, so instead I included this screen capture from the classic college football film “Necessary Roughness,” as I imagine ISU will look like the Texas State Armadilloes on Saturday. Illinois State is the sixth FCS (formerly known as Division I-AA) opponent to visit Evanston, and the second from the Missouri Valley Conference.

In 2008, Northwestern hosted FCS power Southern Illinois. The Wildcats have won their last three games against FCS foes by a combined score of 107-21.

The Redbirds won their season opener last Thursday (Sept. 2) by outlasting Central Missouri State 55-54 in Normal. The shootout featured a combined 1,114 yards of total offense, which included 547 passing yards by Central Missouri. Illinois State totaled 509 yards of offense (187 rushing, 322 passing) as it built a 20-point first half lead before needing a fourth quarter rally to win the game.

The last time I saw ISU play they were run over by a very bad Illini team in week two of 2009. Now they’re facing a Big Ten team that should finish around 8-4. Results will not be pretty.

Guys you’ll see Saturday eventually playing on Sundays: ISU- none, on the Wildcats, LB Quentin Davie, although if Persa continues on his current pace, he’ll win the O’Brien, Unitas and Heisman trophies, and become the 2012 Sam Bradford.

Prediction to be taken with a grain of salt (actually make that a whole truckload of salt)

NU 59, ISU 10.(Banks’ season picks record 2-0)

Persa’s numbers 24-26 passing, 345 yards, 5 TDs, o INT (in 2.5 quarters of play)

How optimistic am I about a Northwestern win on Saturday? I think this video below will tell you. I might look up at the Ryan Field crowd from the sidelines and pull an Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) and yell……

Written by Paul M. Banks, president and CEO of The Sports , a Midwest-focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network and Fox

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguru

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