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Inside NU's Northwestern-Eastern Illinois predictions

Is our staff too confident? Most of us don't think it'll be close.

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

At long last, it's Friday of game week — the Friday before the Northwestern Wildcats will take the field for the second game of the 2015 season — and that can only mean one thing. It's time for picks. Every Friday during the season, we'll put our staff on the spot, and ask them to predict the exact outcome of the coming Saturday's Northwestern game, and we'll encourage readers to do the same in the comments.

Here's how we see the week two matchup with Eastern Illinois playing out:

Henry Bushnell: Northwestern 37, EIU 7

The offense still might not be good. But it won't have to be. The Wildcats will score at least one, if not two defensive or special teams touchdowns, and they'll roll. Oh, and I'm taking the under this year on 1.5 freshmen falling when they get to run across the field before the game.

Josh Rosenblat: Northwestern 23, Eastern Illinois 3

It won't be perfect. But Northwestern will prevail in pretty convincing fashion. The Wildcats will continue to struggle in the red zone, mustering just two touchdowns compared to three Jack Mitchell field goals. The defense will dominate, though, collecting at least two turnovers.

Dan Waldman: Northwestern 33, Eastern Illinois 6

We saw a very raw Clayton Thorson last weekend in Northwestern's upset win over Stanford, with his decision making not where it needs to be when it comes time for conference play. However, this game should serve as a confidence booster for the redshirt freshman, and it'll be interesting to see if he spends more time passing out of the pocket. Last week, I took the Wildcats to upset Stanford, but I can't say I have the chutzpah to pick Eastern Illinois here. Northwestern's relentless defense should take care of the Panthers, and Thorson throws his first TD pass in the win.

Zach Pereles: Northwestern 27, Eastern Illinois 6

It won't necessarily be pretty from Northwestern, but this will be one the Wildcats pull out easily. I'd love to see Clayton Thorson just light it up, but I don't think he's there yet. It'll be a ho-hum Justin Jackson-led win that won't impress anyone (it's hard to impress people against Eastern Illinois). Jackson runs for 150 and a touchdown, Thorson throws his first career touchdown, a third guy gets a touchdown -- I'll go ahead and say Warren Long -- and the Wildcats cruise. The defense should be dominant and set the hosts up with some short fields to work with. I'll be interested to see how good the Northwestern offense is near the goal line, an area they struggled in last week, albeit against much better competition.

Kevin Dukovic: Northwestern 26, Eastern Illinois 10

It'll take until the second quarter for NU to shake off its "Stanford hangover" and begin dominating an inferior team. The good: Justin Jackson surpasses 100 yards rushing, the defense forces two turnovers and Clayton Thorson throws his first career touchdown to Christian Jones. The bad: Thorson turns the ball over and the Wildcats struggle to score touchdowns in the red zone.

Ian McCafferty: Northwestern 31, Eastern Illinois 13

I think this game will be close for long enough to make some people uncomfortable, but in the end Northwestern will run away with it. The defense is just too solid, even if it takes a step back from last week they only have to face an overmatched EIU squad. I think Clayton Thorson plays better, but still not terrific, maybe he completes one or two big plays, but overall he'll still be shaky. This game will be won on the back of Justin Jackson (156 yards, 2 touchdowns) and either a special teams or defensive touchdown. EIU scores late in the fourth against the prevent to push themselves into double digits.

Kevin Trahan: Northwestern 38, Eastern Illinois 10

Eastern Illinois is bad. Northwestern is not bad. #analysis

Lyndsey Armacost: Northwestern 24, EIU 9

Northwestern will pull out the easy victory and continue to impress with short gains, limited turnovers, and big defensive plays. Clayton Thorson will need to improve his decision making for Northwestern to be confident in him going into conference play. After Justin Jackson puts points on the board early, the offense will give Thorson the opportunity to prove himself and the dual-threat quarterback will deliver with both a passing and a rushing touchdown. There is no doubt that Eastern Illinois will have a very hard time scoring against Anthony Walker and the Wildcat defense. After last week's high-profile win over Stanford, anything less than a dominating performance is a disappointment.

Michael Odom: Northwestern 34, Eastern Illinois 3

Last week, Western Illinois beat Eastern Illinois 33-5. Last year, a lesser Wildcats team beat Western Illinois 24-7. Via the transitive property -- which is, admittedly, terrible logic -- Northwestern is at least 45 points better than this week's opponent. I don't see a 45-point shellacking in the forecast, but since the Western Illinois Fighting Leathernecks beat EIU by four touchdowns, I don't see why Northwestern can't beat them by four touchdowns and a field goal.