Daniel Olinger: Northwestern 17, Illinois 16
Illinois plays a very specific way (i.e. an incredibly boring way). It is nothing but HB dives straight into your teeth that hope to wear your defense out, meanwhile the Illini defense just hopes to stall you long enough for the game to enter the well of suck, giving Bret Bielema’s squad a chance to emerge victorious. But Northwestern is well equipped to handle the well of suck. Heck, they practically built it. The gameplay needed to beat Illinois is not easy but it is simple, which is all Pat Fitzgerald and his staff require. Northwestern pulls out a close wingin Champaign, takes home its seventh consecutive HAT and ties the all-time series at a splendid 55-55-5. Good sport.
Ben Chasen: Northwestern 22, Illinois 20
To start, no, I don’t have the slightest idea how we’re getting to this exact score. Here’s what I do know: this is the HAT game. Pat Fitzgerald will romp one sideline, and a coach best-referred to as Bert will preside over the other. It does not matter to me that the latter has done more with what he’s had this year than the former, because the truth is that I trust the former to make the most of his roster far, far more than I trust the latter. It doesn’t matter if my trust might seem misguided (or biased). It doesn’t matter if I will look back on this prediction like I have looked back upon the overwhelming majority of my overly-optimistic predictions this season: with regret. This is HAT. Until otherwise proven, Northwestern wins.
Mac Stone: Northwestern a lot, Illinois less than a lot
We interrupt your morning of watching The Game to bring you something even more special — two mediocre teams squaring off for the LOLHAT. Did you set any expectations for this game? If so, throw them all out the window. It’s going to be a mess, and a lovely one at that. In the end, the ‘Cats keep the HAT.
John Olsen: Illinois 24, Northwestern 14
This Northwestern defense is atrocious. There’s no push from the defensive tackles, the pass rush is inconsistent, the linebackers are slow and the secondary’s coverage might as well be Swiss cheese with the amount of holes it has in it. It doesn’t matter what any opposing offensive coordinator tries against the ‘Cats, it will work, and Illinois is no exception to this rule. I’m fully prepared to watch the Fighting Illini win at the line of scrimmage every play, and as a result, Chase Brown will put up close to 200 yards and three TD’s to take the Land of Lincoln trophy back to Champaign. Regardless of the outcome, I’ll be ecstatic to see the clock hit triple zero so the entire program can just move on from what has been a thoroughly disappointing season.
Jacob Brown: Illinois 17, Northwestern 7
Illinois can’t throw the ball, and they know that. Northwestern can’t throw the ball, but they haven’t accepted that. U of I attacks NU’s LB corp and comes away with an ugly win. Fitz has to finish this game and get on a plane to Utah to land Costelli. Flush this season, get a QB, talk BJo into returning, put Jake and O’Neil on short leashes, and prepare for a pivotal 2022 season that could determine the future trajectory of the program.
Ignacio Dowling: Illinois 20, Northwestern 17
Northwestern and Illinois are two below-average teams that typically don't win games with a flurry of big plays. So as cliché as it sounds, this will come down to which team makes fewer mistakes. You can't count on Andrew Marty or any of NU's quarterbacks to push the ball downfield without making bad decisions. On the other hand, U of I's run-heavy offense is much less susceptible to a game-changing turnover. The Fighting Illini have won close in-conference games, while the Wildcats haven't. Saturday should be a fitting end to a brutal season, as it will begin with optimism, only for it to slowly dissipate until it's all gone.
Sarah Effress: Northwestern 21, Illinois 17
Give my man Evan Hull his 1,000-yard season. And also, Hat.
Bradley Locker: Illinois 27, Northwestern 18
This feels like a big game for both sides/ Every time I open Twitter, I’m greeted by Northwestern Football tweets showcasing the team’s six-game win streak over its rivals, but little is really at stake in the grand scheme of things (besides bragging rights, of course). I wouldn’t be surprised to see an impassioned, clawing NU squad get out to an early lead, but there’s little chance for the ‘Cats to slow down Chase Brown, whose 99.4 rushing yards per contest is fourth in the conference. Defensive back Kerby Joseph has eight takeaways and is PFF’s highest-graded collegiate defensive back, so I fully expect him to ravage Andrew Marty and Ryan Hilinski. 2022 soon come (but brace yourselves).
Gavin Dorsey: Illinois 17, Northwestern 9
There’s two ways to look at this. Illinois beat Minnesota and Nebraska, who both stomped Northwestern, or Illinois lost to Rutgers, who NU beat for its only conference win this season. It’s anyone’s guess as to which Illini team we see Saturday, but I’ll imagine it’s the former, as Chase Brown runs for 150 and two scores. I also have to agree with Sarah — give Evan Hull the rock.
William Karmin: Northwestern 24, Illinois 14
There are three certain in life: Death, taxes and the HAT.
Myles Gilbert: Northwestern 20, Illinois 16
One final game of the 2021 season leaves me one final opportunity to be optimistic about Northwestern football. It truly has been a horrific season to say the least. However, this is a rivalry game — records are tossed out the window and the only thing that matters is beating that team on the other sideline. NU cannot afford to look to 2022 early. If they do, they will get blown out in Champaign. The ‘Cats send the seniors out on a good note and somehow, someway, retain possession of that beautiful HAT for a seventh straight season.
Jacob Brown: 10-1
Bradley Locker: 9-2
Andrew Katz: 8-2
Mac Stone, Daniel Olinger: 8-3
Ben Chasen, John Olsen: 7-4
Will Karmin: 6-4
Gavin Dorsey: 4-2
Myles Gilbert: 3-2
Michael Barthelemy: 2-0
Meredith Revsine, Ignacio Dowling: 1-0
Eli Karp, Liam Hubbard: 2-1
Didi Jin: 2-3
Colin Kruse, Lia Assimakopoulos: 1-2
Sarah Effress, Brian Paget, Nik Mehrotra, Sydney Supple, Jackson Gordwin: 0-1