The Northwestern Wildcats collide with the Illinois Fighting Illini in the Big Ten regular-season finale on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats lost to Purdue in their latest action. The Fighting Illini were dealt a road loss by Iowa in their previous game. The Wildcats tallied a 28-10 win against Illinois in the meeting last December.
Northwestern Charged with Fifth Straight Loss
The Northwestern Wildcats will conclude a disappointing season on the road. Northwestern has now lost four consecutive games due to terrible offensive play. They were 11 point dogs in a 32-11 home loss to Purdue last week. They only have one Big Ten victory all season which came in a 21-7 win against Rutgers. The Wildcats have only covered the spread three times all season.
Ryan Hilinski and Andrew Marty have been sharing playing time. Hilinski is struggling, recording 855 passing yards with a 3:3 TD to INT ratio. Andrew Marty has been more productive but has trouble with interceptions and has 707 passing yards and a 6:6 TD to INT ratio on the year.
The Wildcats will run more than pass. They have a good RB in Evan Hull who has eclipsed the 100-yard mark three times. The sophomore RB has collected 908 rushing yards on an average of 5.5 yards per carry. Stephon Robinson Jr. has made 15 receptions in his last three games and leads the team with 622 yards. The Northwestern offense has only scored more than 20 points on two occasions in Big Ten play.
The Wildcats defense has posted a few good performances but is inconsistent. They have allowed over 30 points six times in conference action. The pass defense is a strength, ranking 48th overall while the rush defense is tabbed 119th. Northwestern is scoring an average of only 16.8 points, pegging them down at 124th overall. They are conceding an average of 27.4 points, landing them 76th in the FBS.
Illinois Competitive in Loss to Iowa
The Illinois Fighting Illini head into their regular-season finale on a losing note. They have been competitive late in the season which continued last week. Illinois was tabbed as 12 point dogs in a 33-23 road loss to #17 Iowa to dip to 3-5 in Big Ten play. The Fighting Illini are 2-2 in their last four games including an upset road win at Penn State. They have covered in 6 of 11 games.
Brandon Peters struggled last week, completing less than 50% of his pass attempts. The senior QB has 928 passing yards along with a 6:3 TD to INT ratio. Illinois' other QB Arthur Sitkowksi is out with injury. This squad will run plenty. Chase Brown has posted several terrific performances but had some trouble with a good rush defense last week. The sophomore RB has 893 rushing yards on 5.7 yards per carry. Isaiah Williams has accrued a team-leading 412 receiving yards. The Fighting Illini offense is one of the worst in the conference due to the terrible passing game.
The Illinois defense is a strength and has kept them in several games this season. They held Rutgers to 20 points three weeks ago and Minnesota to six in the following game. The pass defense is ranked 58th while the rush defense is 70th. The Fighting Illini are only averaging 17.7 points, placing them 122nd in the FBS. They are allowing an average of 22.6 points, landing them 42nd in the country.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The Fighting Illini have been competitive and this is a team they should beat convincingly. The defense is solid and will play a key factor. Illinois has limited its foe to 20 or fewer points in four consecutive games and Northwestern has an abysmal offense. They rank near the bottom of the FBS in all categories and have tallied 21 or fewer points in seven consecutive games.
Furthermore, the Illinois offense should thrive. They run in a majority of their plays and have a good RB in Chase Brown. Northwestern is terrible against the run, allowing an average of over 200 rushing yards per game, pegging them 1119th in the FBS. Illinois wins this one by double-digits.
Full-Game Total Pick
This is going to be a defensive battle. The under has been the dominant trend for Illinois due to its defensive play. They held Wisconsin to 24 points, Penn State to 18, and Minnesota to only six points. NW has the worst offense in the conference. They rely on the running game and Illinois’ rush defense is decent.
In addition, the Fighting Illini rarely put up big points. They have scored 24 or fewer points in eight straight games overall. The under is a convincing 8-1 in Illinois' last nine games on the season and 4-0 in their last four home games.
Full-Game Prop Bet
The over on the Illinois team total is a solid prop bet. The Fighting Illini were able to collect 23 points against an elite Iowa defense last week. As mentioned they run often and Northwestern’s biggest weakness on defense is the rush defense. The Wildcats have allowed over 30 points in 4 out of their last 5 games overall.
Half-Time Prop Prediction
I am going with Illinois on the first quarter line. Northwestern is one of the lowest-scoring teams in the FBS in the opening quarter where they are only averaging 2.8 points on the season, pegging them at 128th overall. Illinois scored 10 points in the first quarter at Iowa last week.