We're split this week. Who would've thought that two months ago?
Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)
I honestly have no idea who to pick here. Northwestern should win. The Wildcats have a good enough defense to slow down the Illini and enough of an offense to put up some points. However, the defense looked pretty uninterested last week and I'm worried NU has already packed it in. All week, I planned on picking Illinois, but "intangibles" aside, NU is the better team, so what the heck — Wildcats win, red zone touchdowns and all.
Northwestern 31, Illinois 24
Chris Johnson (@ChrisDJohnsonn)
The natural impulse is to expect a beaten down, despondent, seemingly unlucky Northwestern team to throw in the towel, to give up and follow the wise words of one Lee Corso, to loaf their way through the final game of the season. I suspect that’s what most other people expect Northwestern to do in this game. Maybe not. In any case, I’m going against my first impression and taking the Wildcats to win.
Why? 1) I think this game matters quite a bit to Northwestern’s players. Freshman Matt Harris disliked Illinois even before he showed up for summer workouts. 2) Mick McCall read ESPN Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg’s subtle joke about one specific play Northwestern tends to run in third-and-long situations, and decided to excise it from the playbook. Actually, after reading what McCall told Teddy Greenstein this week, that second reason is almost certainly inaccurate. In any case, I don’t think Illinois – Big Ten “winning streak” and all – is very good, which is probably a better explanation than any other for my pick and score prediction.
Northwestern 27, Illinois 20
Josh Rosenblat (@JMRosenblat)
These are two teams that have struggled through their respective Big Ten seasons and have little to play for. Oh wait, there’s that weird bronze top hat thing: The Land of Lincoln Trophy. Even without Kain Colter and with a subpar offense, Northwestern still has the defense to keep Illinois under wraps. And as this is my last prediction of the year, I am also going to officially call a Kyle Prater touchdown. A metal hat and a Prater touchdown may actually make this season worthwhile. Actually, never mind.
Northwestern 23, Illinois 17
Callie Counsellor (@CCounsellor)
Illinois finally ended its 20-game Big Ten losing streak last week, so they come into this game with some momentum that Northwestern clearly lacks. NU will most likely be without Kain Colter who, along with running back Venric Mark, was largely responsible for NU's blowout win over the Illini last season. Without those two, it will be difficult for the Wildcats to find a solution to the season-long ineffectiveness of the offense. Luckily for NU, Illinois' offense has been equally inept, plus they have turned the ball over 20 times this year. The defense has been the stronger unit for NU most of the season, and it will be up to them to save the Wildcats from a winless conference season. This game will come down to a Jeff Budzien field goal late in the game and a fourth down stop by the defense.
Northwestern 17, Illinois 14
Henry Bushnell (@HenryBushnell)
At this point, does it really even matter? I know it would be nice to send this senior class -- one that has done so much for the program -- out with a win, but is there really a huge difference between 0-8 and 1-7? I can't help but think that after the crushing blow that the Wildcats were dealt by Michigan State last weekend, that sense of irrelevance has crept into the minds of some of the players. Fitzgerald will still get them to fight tooth and nail and play their hearts out, and Northwestern is the better football team, but something just tells me that the Illini take this one at home. This just hasn't been Northwestern's season, and it just seems fitting that it gets capped off with yet more disappointment.
Illinois 34, Northwestern 23