Maybe we should start prediction Northwestern to lose ... but we didn't this weekend.
It won't be pretty, but Northwestern will ground and pound its way to a victory, at least for one day realizing its dream of being the Stanford of the Big Ten. Fans might be a little disappointed in the lack of any creativity against an FCS team (Pat Fitzgerald isn't changing that strategy) but they'll be relieved with the win. The NU defense will play very well and the Leathernecks' only points will come from a turnover and a garbage time touchdown.
Northwestern 31, Western Illinois 14
Western Illinois was down only six points to Wisconsin at halftime earlier this month. What does that say about the Leathernecks? I'm not sure. Perhaps they can give Northwestern a game for a half, but I envision the Wildcats winning this one pretty easily. If the offense continues to struggle, though, this could be closer than most people expect.
Northwestern 30, Western Illinois 10
Let's be honest - this could be a pretty dull game of football. Northwestern isn't good enough to let fans rejoice in a 50-point blowout, but the Wildcats aren't bad enough to let WIU hang around for more than a quarter. So I'll suggest a prop bet to spice things up. Which will be higher: The number of touchdown passes Trevor Siemian throws? Or the number of intoxicated freshmen that fall when they run on the field? I'll make the freshmen a 1.5 drunken fall favorite.
Northwestern 34, Western Illinois 6
The bye week gave Northwestern a much-needed respite from a hellish start. I expect better overall execution in all three phrases, especially on offense. The players will feed off the energy of a rejuvenated student section full of first-years and jump on the Leathernecks early. The Cats will put an end to their first half scoring struggles (I predict a 14-3 halftime lead) and win their first home game in 364 days.
Northwestern 27, Western Illinois 10
Last year Northwestern had issues early against Western Michigan and Maine. I think it will take them some time to get going yet again. At halftime, NU will only hold a small lead, but they'll pull away in the final quarters for an easy victory. And finally we will see the running game produce some big plays.
Northwestern 34, Western Illinois 13
A game against Western Illinois won't be the cure-all for Northwestern football but it should certainly be a confidence boost. I think the Wildcats' defense will really shine in this one, not allowing any points after the first quarter. Trevor Siemian will be fine after injuring his leg two weeks ago, but we'll see healthy dose of Justin Jackson.
Northwestern 24, Western Illinois 7
This game is exactly what Northwestern needs right now. Pat Fitzgerald has a curiously terrible record coming off bye weeks, but the talent level of these two teams really isn't all that close. You'll hear Justin Jackson's name early and often as NU is able to establish a run game behind their OLine, which will be significantly larger than the Western Illinois DLine. That'll loosen the secondary, and Trevor Siemian will get back to form and throw three touchdowns. The ‘Cats win comfortably in front of a healthy crowd (students are now back on campus), and we'll all wish that this was the season opener.
Northwestern 49, Western Illinois 13
Fitz builds a tougher ship. Cats win, nobody jumps off the ship this weekend.
Northwestern 52, Western Illinois 5
If they lose this game, I'll eat my hat. Not because I think that losing this game is highly unlikely but because I'll be so sick that, much like a dog eating grass, I'll consume nearby objects to force myself to vomit. On an unrelated note, I really want the offensive line to provide me some optimism heading into the Penn State game.
Northwestern 30, Western Illinois 13
Northwestern is 0-2, but being realistic, they have played two FBS teams close and are now playing what appears to be a below-average FCS team. They should win. They should win by a lot. And if they do not win, I will cry tears of blood.
Northwestern 33, Western Illinois 7
I want to see the running game on track, the passing game avoiding unforced errors, and the defense preventing big plays. I rarely get everything I want.
Northwestern 31, WIU 14
Two weeks ago, I drowned my sorrows after Northwestern's loss by eating eight orders of shrimp from Red Lobster's Endless Shrimp promotion. If NU loses again Saturday, I just might run my local Red Lobster out of shrimp. If you own shares in the restaurant, you best hope NU wins.
Northwestern 41, WIU 6