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Illinois vs. Northwestern preview: We don’t need no stinking trophies

November 13, 2009

1114sporlandoflincolnpicThe Land of Lincoln Trophy? That’s the best you could come up with? A stupid little bronze hat sitting on top of a wood box is now the enduring symbol of college football in Illinois?

Don’t get me wrong, axing the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk trophy was the right decision, but let’s get a little more creative here. I feel that the whole Abraham Lincoln thing is a bit overplayed in this state.

How about the Chillinois Trophy? Now that’s something I could support.

Most people are picking Northwestern to win this game, especially since they just upset a very average then-No. 4 Iowa team on the road. Some are even envisioning a massacre for the Illini.

I, however, am trying to convince myself Illinois is going to win this game. And I’m going to use this space to do it…

There’s not too much to analyze here. Northwestern is the better team this season. Illinois has more talent, but the Wildcats have gotten more production out of their players.

Northwestern SHOULD win this game. They have the superior defensive front seven and their offense is able to make enough plays behind QB Mike Kafka.

But I think I’ve found the crack in the armor. It’s a small opening, but it’s one Ron Zook should attack aggressively (preemptive That’s What She Said).

Northwestern does not fair well against run-first offenses.

Check it out. Although they have the fifth best rushing defense in the conference (117.10 yards per game), they have lost to teams that rely heavily on the running game. Against Penn State (fifth in the Big Ten in rushing offense) and Michigan State (sixth), the Wildcats have lost. No one else has really tried to run on them, hence their “good” rushing defense. They haven’t faced a more highly ranked running team than the Nittany Lions all season…that is until tomorrow when they’ll face the No. 4 ranked Illini rushing attack. Und very very interesting, yes?

If Illinois can run the ball like they did against Michigan, then they will be able to control the clock, keep the NU offense off the field, blah, blah, blah. You’ve heard all that cliche stuff a hundred times.

The reality of the situation is that the Illini should be able to man-handle a Wildcat defense that hasn’t faced as brutal of a running team as the Illini. Period. Illinois needs to be tougher. It’s that simple.

Even the fear of the running game should allow QB Jacob Charest to find some nice one-on-one coverage in the secondary from time to time. The chances will be there if OC Mike Schultz plays his cards right.

I’m keeping this preview short for two reasons: 1.) I’m writing this at the office when I should be working and 2.) There isn’t much to analyze here. If the Illini can’t run the ball, then they can’t win.

I want to pick Illinois soooooo bad. I really like this matchup. Should I do it? I did pick Northwestern earlier in the week afterall.

Ah to hell with it. My flip has been flopped.

PREDICTION: Illinois 35, Northwestern 30

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