Week 13 – Illinois at Northwestern

Posted Nov 23, 2012

Week 13 Fearless Prediction – Illinois at Northwestern

Illinois (2-9) at Northwestern (8-3) Nov. 24, 12:00, BTN

Here's The Deal: Could the disastrous season get any worse for the Illini? Every week there's hope for a turnaround and improvement, and every week the team stinks it up and loses. However, even though the eight-game losing streak is hardly pretty, the Illini have enough talent and athleticism to close with a positive moment. After battling hard in a 20-17 loss to Purdue, there are small signs of life.

Northwestern is looking for a terrific nine-win regular season and a strong finish with the hope of a New Year's Day bowl game. The Wildcats proved that they're for real with a surprising gut-check win last week against a Michigan State team that needed the victory, and now it's time to put their struggling in-state rivals away.

Why Illinois Might Win: The defense continues to be decent. It's not a brick wall, especially against the run, but it's not the main problem. The pass rush has improved over the last month and the pass defense was able to hold Minnesota to 78 yards a few weeks ago. Northwestern's running game has to be attacked in the backfield and at the line; if the D is catching blocks and trying to react, there's a problem. On the other side of the ball, the Wildcat secondary is having way too many problems, getting famously beaten late by Northwestern and Michigan, and last week getting lit up by Andrew Maxwell and a MSU passing game that wasn't doing much against anyone.

Why Northwestern Might Win: The Illinois run defense might not be all that bad, but it was destroyed by Braxton Miller and an Ohio State ground game that rolled up 330 yards and five scores. Michigan rumbled for 353 yards and four touchdowns to kick off a run of four 200+ yard rushing games in five tries by Illini opponents. Last week, against the great Spartan run D, the Wildcats showed they could win when the running attack wasn't working, but before that it was on a dominant role with 180 rushing yards in every game but two.

What To Watch Out For: Are the Wildcat stars healthy? The offense was able to get by MSU with running back Venric Mark limited after getting hurt in overtime against Michigan the week before. Also dinged up was quarterback Kain Colter, who was having a nice day before getting knocked out against the Spartans. Both of them are expected to play, but even if they do hit the field, sophomore quarterback Trevor Siemian will get his share of work. He hasn't been consistent, but he has given away just one pick on the season and has been hot over the last few weeks hitting 19-of-30 passes against Michigan and Michigan State.

What Will Happen: Northwestern isn't taking it easy. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald has his players still fighting and trying to improve, and there won't be any letdown this week.

CFN Prediction: Northwestern 34 … Illinois 17
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Northwestern -19.5 O/U: 50.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Beware of Mr. Baker, 1 – Life of Pi): 2.5