SOC – Northwestern September 30, 2011
In case you’re new here – and you might be, given that ALionEye.com received more hits today than any other day in its 2.5 year existence (who knew Northwestern stirred our blood this much?) – Friday nights are Stream Of Consciousness nights. That means I sit down at this computer at some point between 6 pm and 2 am and I write out my nerves. I don’t edit, I don’t re-read, and I try to avoid the backspace button. It’s my thoughts, straight from my anxiety to the keyboard. I’m just the middle man.
One thought has gripped me all day. Could I really write the “He Started It” post, finish it with “until tomorrow”, and then predict an Illini loss in the SOC post? I try to hold off on any predictions about the game until this moment – the game is hours away and I’ve digested everything about out opponent and the current state of our team. So all I’ve thought about all afternoon is how it would look if my nerves tell me tonight that tomorrow is loss number one.
What a horribly formed paragraph. Too bad I can’t go back and edit it.
So can I? Can I predict a loss? Well, I could easily see it happening. Here, I’ll make a list of why Northwestern might beat us tomorrow, and then I’ll make a list of why we’ll beat them. And whichever list looks better will get the winning prediction. This is kind of what I did in 10th grade deciding between Gretchen and Lauren, except I hadn’t figured out that neither Gretchen nor Lauren like me. Also, I’m old enough to have liked a girl in 10th grade named Gretchen?
Why Northwestern might win
- Dan Persa returns. And Dan Persa is really, really good. He was the best quarterback in the Big Ten last year, and he completes a ridiculously high percentage of his passes. If he gets in a rhythm with Ebert or one of his other receivers, how do we stop him? You know how WMU’s Carder kept finding seam after seam after seam in the first half last week? Persa could do that all. day. long. tomorrow. Rust or no rust.
- Even if Persa can’t go, or even if he’s limited, they have a fun little second option to go to in Kain Colter. Sure, he can’t throw to save his life, but how will we handle a mobile QB? We haven’t faced one yet. What if he gets Northwestern’s running game in a rhythm. We could get rhythm’d to death.
- All week all I’ve heard is how Army ran for a bazillion yards, and we ran for a bazillion last year, so it’s a stone cold lock that we’re going to run for two bazillion yards tomorrow. Every time I read a preview like that – seriously, every time a game sets up like this – it doesn’t play out to that script. What do we do when Northwestern sells out to the run and makes us punt early?
- Most importantly, Northwestern has had two weeks to prepare and they WANT this. They had everything set up last year – a purple sign at Wrigley, a sold out stadium, and ESPN Gameday in town. It was their moment. And we stole it from them (not only stole it, but embarrassed them). They gave up 519 rushing yards. And Lee Corso had picked us. They want this game bad.
Why Illinois might win
- We have a better defense. Possibly by a factor of 7. Northwestern’s defense really hasn’t recovered from the Wrigley game last year – including that game, they’re giving up 478 yards per game in their last 6 games. And that includes this year’s opponents of Army, EIU, and Boston College. Until they hold a decent team under 400 yards, why would anyone assume they can crank up the emotion and put a stop to our offense?
- This defense held Brock Osweiler and Arizona State to 14 points (they scored 37 on Missouri and 43 on Southern Cal). Why would I not expect us to shut down a rusty Dan Persa or a all-run Kain Colter? What wins Big Ten games? Running game and defense. Who has the better run game? Illinois. Who has the better defense? Illinois
- We had our letdown last week (and we still won!). If there’s one thing we’ve been consistent at in our inconsistency over the last few years, it’s rebounding from the rebound game with a solid performance. Look no further than Wrigley Field last year. We were all worried about the hangover after the emotional Michigan game, and it happened – a home lost to Minnesota. And just as we wondered if that loss was going to take a bowl away, BOOM, we’re up 14-0 on Northwestern before some people took their seats. I think we come out fired up.
- Um, hello, we’re #22 in the nation and more than a touchdown favorite. Did I ever stop to think that this might actually be a really good Illinois team? Like, really, really good?
I think that’s where I’m landing here. What, am I going to sit here every Friday night and bite my fingernails? How silly would I feel if we had a 9-3 season but I looked back to see how worried I was about our road trip to 1-4 Indiana? Getting to be confident about and Illinois team doesn’t come along very often. Why not enjoy it while it’s here?
That’s it – we’re winning this game tomorrow. I wanted 5-1 before the Ohio State game, and now I can go into the Indiana game playing with house money. In Nathan I trust.
Illinois 33, Northwestern 16