Northwestern vs. Illinois: Talking Illini football with The Champaign Room

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois-Northwestern football: It's a game!

OH, YOU THOUGHT WE DONE FORGOT ABOUT HAT WEEK?

Northwestern is 0-7 in conference, and I can safely say I would rather Northwestern not be 0-8 in conference. It turns out that eighth game is against the worst team Northwestern has played, since... well... those four games Northwestern won in non-conference play. Let's talk to Brandon Birkhead of The Champaign Room about how/why that team is bad!

1. It's been a while since Northwestern went 0-8 in conference play.  How should we prepare ourselves, just in case? What's it like?

Well since your basketball team has still never made the tournament, I'm sure I can't give you any advice on how to deal with a very poor team that you don't already know. It sucks, and feelings can get very negative, but time heals all things. Even Illinois eventually won a Big Ten game.

2. Illinois puts up a lot of points. How does it do that?

Bill Cubit is a wizard. We have had injuries to deal with. Losing Ryan Lankford seemed like it would be a big blow, but Cubit kept the offense moving and has turned Steve Hull, a player that just moved to WR after playing safety for three years, into a very productive player. His use of multiple formations keeps defenses guessing. He allows players to do what they are best at, while hiding their mistakes. Cubit isn't perfect, and he has made some very poor calls, but all in all, he has been a tremendous asset to the Illini.

3. You beat Purdue! Have the riots stopped?

Most are happy to have a Big Ten win, but there are still many who are on the fire Beckman bandwagon. We won, and it's great to now have a winning streak of one, but it was only Purdue. There is still a long way to go.

4. Illinois gives up a lot of points. How does it do that?

By having no players of Big Ten quality outside of Jonathan Brown. The defensive line is very undersized and cannot get off blocks, and when the secondary is as young and inconsistent as it is, it creates the perfect storm of awfulness that is the Illini defense. The talent just isn't there. Teams are able to control the line of scrimmage with ease, and for the most part, do what they want.I must say the defense did take a big step up last week, but again it was against Purdue. They will have to play a solid game again come Saturday to win.

5. What would LOLHAT mean to Illinois? What would it mean to make Northwestern 0-8?

It would look a lot better for Tim Beckman to be 5-7 with two wins in a row going into next year with Wes Lunt in line to start, than if he was 4-8 with Purdue being his only Big Ten win. I think fans would be a lot more positive about the team and their chances next year if the Illini finish this year strong. Winning two trophy games against our rivals can help build some momentum this program desperately needs.

6. There were some early FIRE BECKMAN people last year. Has that contingent cooled in year 2?


Slightly, but there is still a large portion of the fanbase that wants to see him go. I don't think it's really about the success of the team, though that certainly plays a role. I think it has more to do with the thought that he doesn't represent the university well. He had the Penn State recruiting situation, he got in trouble for chewing tobacco during a game and he has two sideline penalties, one of which he was crawling around like a doofus. Furthermore, John Groce was brought in the same year as Beckman, but he was able to turn the team around and make the tournament, while Tim Beckman is well, Tim Beckman. Is he the man to turn around the Illini? I don't know. But I do know that he will not be fired this season. Illini fans will just have to be a little patient.

7. Prediction?

I really think the seniors, especially Nathan Scheelhasse, really want to go out with a win. After all they have been through, they really deserve it. They are playing a team they can beat, and it's senior day and the last day of football many of the starters will play, ever. I think they will play with a lot of passion and go out with a win. Illini 34 Northwestern 27

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