#LOL Trophy Gameday Is Here! Northwestern (8-3,4-3) vs Illinois (2-9,0-7)

NCAA Football: Indiana at Northwestern

Northwestern (8-3,4-3) vs Illinois (2-9, 0-7)

GAMEDAY INFO
Date: November 24, 2012
Kickoff: 11:00 am ct
Location: Ryan Field  (47,130) – Evanston, IL 
All-time Series:  Illinois 54-46-5 In Evanston: Tied 26-26-3
Trends: ‘Cats are 5-1 on senior day under Fitz (L 2011 vs MSU); Illini have lost 13 straight B1G games)
Favored Team: Northwestern (-19.5)
TV: BTN- PXP – Eric Collins, Color – Derek Rackley, SL Joe Jansen
Radio: WGN 720 AM – PXP – Dave Eanet, Color – Ted Albrecht; Sirius Radio Channel 123, XM Radio 195; WNUR 89.3 FM (student station)
Twitter: @NU_SportsLIVE
Coaching Stats: NU – Pat Fitzgerald (7th year –48-39, 25-3o) vs Tim Beckman (1st year–2-9,0-7 )
Weather Forecast: 34 degrees, Wind – west – 10 mph

2-Minute Drill

You could easily write this for me. It’s senior day at Ryan Field where a total of 24 fifth year and true seniors will make their last appearance on the home field with one united mission: return the Land of Lincoln Trophy back to Evanston. Fitz is vying to become tied with Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf for alltime victories (49) with a win today. More importantly, the ‘Cats are playing for a potential better bowl slot and setting themselves up for a potential 10-win season, something they haven’t done since 1995. Northwestern has lost control of a series it had owned until the Wrigley debacle. Tim Beckman and Illini AD Mike Thomas have quickly turned this thing back in to a rivalry, at least among fan bases as ‘Cats fans are snickering at the reactionary marketing by that team down south.

Headlines I’d Like To See On Sunday:

  • Sweet Senior Sendoff; ‘Cats Crush Illini
  • Colter, Mark Return & Run It Up
  • Land of Lincoln Wears Purple; ‘Cats Pitch Shutout, Catapult For New Year’s Day Game

WHEN NORTHWESTERN HAS THE BALL

I’m still not certain what we have in terms of health for QB Kain Colter and RB Venric Mark. The Batman and Robin of the ‘Cats prodigious rushing attack were sidelined for a combined four quarters in last week’s win over Michigan State. With them healthy, the gameplan would be pretty simple. Kain keeper, Kain pitch, Kain handoff with a healthy dose of Venric, Venric and more Venric.

If they’re not good to go? Plan B equals Trevor Siemian and the host of WRs including senior Demetrius Fields and the most improved wideout Christian Jones. Siemian has been playing his best ball the past two weeks and I have no doubt he’ll be good to go. If Venric is sidelined, I also expect Mike Trumpy to have his annual breakout game against the team he loves to dominate – Illinois. As we profiled on Thanksgiving night, the Illini defense is relatively average across the board, but they give up a ton on the ground – more than 180 ypg. You’d expect on this chilly day for Mick McCall to establish the run early and often. The Illini are like Michigan State in one regard – they can’t score a lot of points. I’m hopeful NU will be able to run out to an early lead, because this Fighting Illini team is not designed to mount a comeback.

This is a team that features a ton of talent on defense including future NFL DB Terry Hawthorne and of course, DL Johnathan Brown, who infamously kicked Patrick Ward in the nuts last year. Unfortunately for ‘Cats fans, Brown will be sidelined with an injury today so you’ll have to work extra hard to find him to direct your boos.

WHEN ILLINOIS HAS THE BALL

There is no way to sugarcoat the Illini offense – it’s downright bad. They are the third worst scoring offense in all of FBS at just under 17 ppg and they have yet to score more than 24 points against an FBS team this year.  It’s a bit surprising considering the seasoned Nathan Scheelhaase is at QB and as we saw in Champaign last year, when he has a weapon like AJ Jenkins, he can be lethal. Thankfully Jenkins is gone and name like Ryan Lankford and Darrius Millines are leading receivers with just over 3 rpg.  Donovonn Young leads the way on the ground, but the Illini muster only the 95th best rushing attack at 128 ypg and are NU-like in their passing attack at 173.6 ypg in the air. Of course, the ‘Cats can point to their dominant running game and two QB system as a reason for the low passing output, but the Illini simply have low output.

As most teams have, I expect Tim Beckman’s gameplan to involve testing the ‘Cats secondary. Nick VanHoose is NOT listed on the injury list, so it will be interesting to see if #23 is back in at cornerback. If he is, it will be a huge boost to the unit that has been under fire week after week.

Intangibles: Again, is Venric playing? If so, huge advantage Northwestern. Fellow blogger, The Champaign Room, tweeted a stat yesterday that caught my eye. Venric averages 20.1 ypr while Illinois has 25 return yards ALL season. Stew on that one for a second. Jeff Budzien looks to close out a Lou Groza worthy campaign on a windy day that should feature a cross wind, hopefully blocked by the west side of the stadium. The Illini don’t shine in PR, KOR or even FG for that matter. They’re also poor in takeaways and turn it over quite a bit as they rank 106th in turnover margin at -.91 per game. On special teams and the turnover battle, Northwestern has a huge advantage – on paper.

Lake The Posts Factor (0=so certain you can DVR and watch late night, 10=running to Ryan Field, ripping down FG posts and marching them in to Lake Michigan): 5.1

As fans, we’ve wanted this one since last October….badly. Tim Beckman’s train wreck of a season takes a little sizzle off of this match-up, but in a season when every week has come down to the final play, we won’t be taking anything for granted. Northwestern is clearly the better team, with better players, better chemistry and a better system. They should win. Fitz has been in major downplay rivalry mode this week, swatting away any media bulletin board bait. I’ve got this as a 5.1 on the Lake The Posts scale in honor of our coach who will be looking to tie the alltime win mark with the win.  We all know this game sets up yet another New Year’s Day SEC showdown, but we don’t know which one. A victory is truly expected today.

Pick To Click: Kain Colter

I’ve put a muzzle on Kain Colter and Venric Mark all year long, but I can’t resist today. I’m selfishly wanting Kain to have a huge day as he is about 250 yards shy of the 1,000 yard rushing mark, which would be something if he could get there with this game and the bowl game (remember, bowl game stats count).  He’s been such a warrior all year long, coming through with clutch plays when we’ve needed them and even within the play when it looked like it wasn’t going anywhere. It’d be fitting for Kain to finish strong and have a huge game to get us to win #9.

Head to Head Stat Pack – 2012 averages

Northwestern                                                                                 Illinois

29.8………………………….Scoring Per Game………………………16.9

23.5………………….Scoring Defense Per Game………………30.5

21.9……………………..First Downs Per Game………………….16.8

221.2………………….Rushing Yards Per Game…………….. 128.0

5.0…………………………….Average Per Rush…………………………3.4

25………………………….Rushing Touchdowns………………………10

171.8…………………. Passing Yards Per Game…………….. 173.6

11…………………………. Passing Touchdowns………………………11

393.0…………………..Total Offense Per Game……………… 301.6

18.9……………………….Kick Return Average……………………19.3

17.5……………………….Punt Return Average……………………..1.6

7……………………………………Fumbles Lost……………………………..15

3…………………………… Interceptions Thrown……………………..11

+11………………………….. Turnover Margin………………………..-10

5.8…………………………..Penalties Per Game……………………….5.7

56.1…………………… Penalty Yards Per Game………………..46.1

45%…………………..Third-Down Conversions………………32%

36%………………….Fourth-Down Conversions……………..40%

16-17……………………..Field Goal Attempts…………………… 8-12

37.8……………………….Net Punting Average……………………39.1

39-44 (89%)……………Red-Zone Scores……….21-29 (72%)

Stats to Stew On:

  • Tracking Venric Mark – Mark is ascending the NU alltime lists in rapid fashion. Venric is #4 alltime in single season all purpose yards with 1,919. He is 280 yards away from breaking the record, held by Damien Anderson. He’s #10 in single season rushing yards with 1,190 and can move all the way up to 7th with with 101 yards today. He’s also 6th on the NU alltime career all-purpose yard list and will likely move in to 5th passing Ricky Edwards should he get 84 all-purpose yards today. His 107.5 ypg average is 22nd in the FBS an 5th in the B1G, despite playing only part of the first quarter and gaining 7 yards vs Sparty last week. Venric  leads all B1G rushers with 7 100+ games this season. Venric is tops in the B1G and still 6th in the country in all purpose yards per game with 174.6 ypg.
  • Kain Colter has 732 rushing yards (12th in B1G) and needs 268 to hit the 1,000 yard mark. Colter holds the #2 and #3 alltime single game rushing marks for an NU QB with Mike Kafka’s 217 still the gold standard.
  • The NU fifth year senior class has already set a record for most wins in five years with 38.
  • NU is 12-4 in their last 16 regular season games.
  • NU is 11-6 in November in the past four seasons.
  • The ‘Cats have scored in double figures in 71 consecutive games
  • NU is 33-12 under Fitz when they score first.

SURVEY SAYS…

How are you feeling about the ‘Cats as 19-point favorites over the Illini?

  • I’ll vote “yes” on the win, but no way we cover (76%, 259 Votes)
  • I’m confident we win by 20+ (23%, 78 Votes)
  • I’m voting upset – Illini win (1%, 4 Votes)
     Total Voters: 341

Predictions

Illinois (2-9, 0-7) vs. Northwestern (8-3, 4-3) — 11 a.m. CT/BTN

PRR: Somehow, Northwestern is a 17-point favorite. I do not think Vegas has watched much Northwestern football this year. Or ever. Illinois though is struggling a ton this year, so maybe there is something to that point spread. I am not willing to go that high at this point. The Wildcats offense has been a little inconsistent and there are still questions about Venric Mark and Kain Colter’s health. Northwestern is still good enough to win and win easily . this one. The Illini have struggled that much. And they are not that good. Illinois will struggle to score and that is why Northwestern will win more than anything else.

Northwestern 34, Illinois 21

LTP: Let’s see, last week I picked NU to win 24-20 (they won 23-20). Two games ago I picked NU to beat Iowa 28-17 (they did). I feel like I may have some pixie dust in picking, despite losing to PRR on the big scoreboard. I really, really, really, want to relax in a fourth quarter, although I don’t know if that is possible. The chilly forecast and the Illini weak rushing D spells a 2003 gameplan with a potential season high rushing attempts for the ‘Cats. Of course, I have no clue as to Venric Mark’s health or even Kain’s for that matter. Fitz stating Kain is going to start could very easily be a decoy.  And, the ‘Cats have yet to have a “bad loss” (loss to a team they were favored to beat) and when you throw in Tim Beckman’s obsession of beating Northwestern, you know we’re going to get a motivated Illini team.  I think it is close for a while, but just like 2008, we pull away late to improve Fitz’s stellar senior day record.

Northwestern 30 Illinois 10

Jack Marshall

 

Other Games to Watch/2012 Opponents

Syracuse (7-5) finished off Temple the same way they did their season.  A convincing 38-20 win over the Owls enabled the ‘Cuse to win five of their last six and make our season-opening win seem a bit better than it did at the time.

Vanderbilt (7-4) travels to Wake Forest at 2:30 p.m. CT on ESPNU. The Commodores got Derrick Dooley fired with a 41-18 win over the rival Volunteers last week. Amazingly, the Commodores can get to 8 wins after starting 2-4, again, making our win in Evanston seem that much better than it did a month ago.

Boston College (2-9) visits North Carolina State at 2 p.m. CT. Boston College lost 30-23 to Virginia Tech last week.

South Dakota (1-10) is done with their season. South Dakota lost to South Dakota state 31-8 last week.

Looking Ahead to 2013

California (3-9) is done with their season. California fired head coach Jeff Tedford following the team’s 62-14 loss to No. 17 Oregon State.

Western Michigan (4-8) is done with their season. Western Michigan lost last week to Eastern Michigan 29-23.

Maine (5-6) is done with their season. Maine defeated Rhode Island 55-6 last week.

 

 

  • David

    BCS 25 & 24 went down on Friday. OK State has a tough game against Oklahoma, Boise St has to go to Nevada….nice win here and we can spend The month of December as a top 25 team.

  • BeNWildcat14

    I’m ready, let’s take down the illini and cap off a hopeful 9-3 season with a strong bowl win.
    But I guess I shouldn’t think too far ahead. Let’s just start by giving Illinois (Chicago’s wanna be Big Ten team) a good beating and hoisting that Land of Lincoln Trophy when the game clock strikes 0:00!
    Go Cats!

  • vaudvillain

    Nice to see Vandy and Syracuse doing well (even if the Cowardores are, well, cowards). Now let’s get win #9 in convincing fashion. Cover the spread by halftime, but keep punching in the third quarter. Get both Venric and Kain over 100 yards rushing. Get one of them over 200. Get this thing so out of control that we can give Watkins a series at QB in the 4th. Let Evan get a TD in his final game as a Wildcat. Get Ryan Field rocking, and make the bowl execs drool. No let downs. Let’s do this thing.

    • vaudvillain

      in his final /home/ game as a Wildcat

  • http://www.facebook.com/roy.lamberton Roy Lamberton

    would like to see Mark and Colter put up some big numbers, but I’d enjoy NU putting the ball in few WR hands as well.

    Nothing opens the field up for guys like Mark and Trumpy like a couple of medium sideline throws, or a crossing route over the middle. I’d love to see Colter show that he really can throw the ball and make the play when it counts.

    • David

      How nice would it be to see
      Prater score.

  • David

    Jack was the closest to nailing the score…well done.

    • byebyefitz95

      No kidding. I mean he picks the Cats regardless, but he was closets.

  • BeNWildcat14

    All right Cats!!!! What a HUGE win!! Northwestern makes a huge statement today. Fitz record-tying 49th win with Pappy, claim the Land of Lincoln Trophy, claim that the Cats are the true “Chicago Big Ten team,” slaughter their rival 50-14, and make it very clear that they deserve a Jan 1st bowl game.

    Great game today boys. Thanks for a fantastic regular season. Now let’s go bowling!

  • Alan Casey

    Jack comes through with the closest prediction! Go Jack!

  • CliffG

    Nice victory! Trouncing Illinois is SWEET. Now, for that Bowl win . . .

West Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Northwestern0000
Wisconsin0000
Minnesota0000
Nebraska0000
Purdue0000
Iowa0000
Illinois0000

East Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Indiana0000
Maryland0000
Michigan0000
Michigan State0000
Ohio State0000
Penn State0000
Rutgers0000