After picking up their first Big Ten victory since 2011, the Illinois Fighting Illini will host arguably their biggest rival when the Northwestern Wildcats come to Champaign on Saturday.
Before the Purdue game last weekend, Illinois lost their last six games, and the defense had given up 40 or more points in four of those six losses. However, a good thing for Illinois is that the Northwestern offense hasn’t put up a ton of points this season. The Wildcat offense is ranked 88th overall in scoring (25.2 points per game) and has scored over 40 points only twice in 2013.
Yes, it is true that Northwestern was able to put up 50 points on the Fighting Illini in 2012, but that was with senior quarterback Kain Colter and senior running back Venric Mark.
Mark has been ruled out for the season since November 10th with an ankle injury and Colter is doubtful for Saturday’s game in Champaign with an upper-body injury.
If the Wildcats are going to beat the Illini this weekend, they are going to do it by running the football.
Illinois’ defense has given up at least 100 rushing yards in every single conference game this season. On top of that, the defense has given up over 200 rushing yards to four Big Ten foes in 2013.
Because of this, the player to watch on the offensive side of the ball for Northwestern will be junior running back Treyvon Green.
Since Venric Mark’s season-ending injury, Green has received the bulk of the carries for the Wildcats and has rushed for 667 yards and eight touchdowns on 116 carries in 2013.
Although, Green has not run the ball well in Northwestern’s past two games against Michigan and Michigan State.
In those two games, Green ran for a combined 55 yards on 22 carries (zero touchdowns). Before those two games, he ran for 149 yards and three touchdowns in the team’s three-point loss to Nebraska.
Because of this, don’t be surprised if Wildcat head coach Pat Fitzgerald also gives the ball to senior running back Mike Trumpy.
Trumpy has carried the ball 80 times this season and has rushed for 59 yards in the team’s past two games.
At the quarterback position, Illini Nation can expect to see junior quarterback Trevor Siermian line up under center for Northwestern this weekend.
So far this season, Siermian has completed around 58% of his passes for 1,735 yards and has throw seven touchdowns compared to nine interceptions.
In the team’s past two losses, he threw for a combined 386 yards, but has thrown a combined three interceptions to zero touchdowns. He hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since October 19th against Minnesota.
On paper, there is no reason why Illinois shouldn’t be able to win this weekend against Northwestern.
This year’s Northwestern squad has been a complete disappointment in 2013. After starting the year 4-0, the Cats have lost seven straight conference games and are one loss away from a zero win season in the Big Ten.
The Illini defense has looked abysmal for most of the 2013 season, but could be able to do enough to beat Northwestern this Saturday. They were able to hold Purdue to 16 points last week and has the potential to possibly do the same to Northwestern at home.
Although Northwestern has looked bad in 2013, anything can happen in the Big Ten. Expect this game to be decided on whether or not the Illini defense can limit the production of the Northwestern offense.
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