Big Ten Football: Northwestern-Illinois Game Preview And Prediction

Pedro GonzalezContributor INovember 20, 2010

Wrigley Field
Wrigley FieldJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

This Saturday, the Northwestern Wildcats and the Illinois Fighting Illini will face off in their yearly rivalry game.

These two teams have faced each other an astonishing 103 times; the first game was played well over a century ago, back in 1892 to be exact.

Illinois currently is ahead in the series with a 52-46-5 record, but most recently the Wildcats have been catching up to them, winning six of the last seven games of the series.

In 1945 the Wildcats and the Fighting Illini started to play for the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk trophy and became a staple to the rivalry until the NCAA prohibited the use of Native American imagery and it was played for the last time in 2008, a win by Northwestern.

The Tomahawk was replaced by the Land of Lincoln trophy which debuted last year and went to the Wildcats.

This game has been receiving a lot of coverage because of the return of football to Wrigley Field. Seventy-two years have passed since there was a football game in this historic stadium.

Even though some controversy has happened about the field, it will still be an historic game to watch, I just feel sorry for the fans who bought a ticket with a seat on the East end zone.

Northwestern is currently 7-3 and are looking to reach the Insight Bowl, although they will probably will be headed to either the Texas or Dallas Bowl. Illinois, on the other hand, needs to win this game to get a chance at a bowl berth. 

Northwestern will come into the game without their biggest threat on offense, because last week QB Dan Persa got injured after a game-winning touchdown.

But NU fans shouldn´t worry too much, since he will be replaced by Evan Watkins, a redshirt freshman who is listed at 6-foot-6, yet he´s more athletic than you would think, so he´ll manage to make quite a stir.

Besides, the defense will surely take care of business against the Fighting Illini run offense, thanks to LB Quentin Davie.

Illinois defense isn't that far behind and they will try to pressure the Wildcats young and inexperienced QB, maybe forcing a couple of turnovers down the stretch and putting their team in good field position and letting Mikel LeShoure run the ball.

The bottom-line is that with the absence of Dan Persa, this will be a defensive game where Northwestern has the advantage.

Unless LeShoure manages to score more than a couple of touchdowns, the Wildcats will hoist the Land of Lincoln trophy once more.

Score Prediction: NU 21-13 IL