No. 23 Northwestern faces Illini, looking for 7th straight W
No. 23 Northwestern (8-3, 6-2 Big Ten, CFP No. 22) at Illinois (2-9, 0-8), Saturday, 4 p.m. ET (FS1)
Line: Northwestern by 16 ½.
Series Record: The Illini lead 55-50-5.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Northwestern will try to move one step closer to its second 10-win season in three years. The Wildcats have won six straight, their longest winning streak in over 20 years. The last time the team was this successful was when head coach Pat Fitzgerald was a star linebacker at the university. The Illini are looking for their first Big Ten win.
Northwestern RB Justin Jackson against Illini’s porous run defense. Jackson has the chance to become the fourth leading-rusher in Big Ten history. He needs just two more yards to move ahead of Monte Ball of Wisconsin and that shouldn’t be a problem against an Illinois defense that gives up a conference worst 210.5 yards per game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Northwestern LB Nate Hall. Hall made big plays in a variety of ways against Minnesota last week. He recorded 2.5 sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery. Illinois has turned it over five times in the past three games, so Hall may have the opportunity for more game-changing plays against the Illini.
Illinois QB Cam Thomas. Freshman Cam Thomas is expected to make the second start of his career after missing the past two games due to injury. He has thrown for 236 yards this season and totaled another 187 yards on the ground. He also has three interceptions, but has shown flashes of big play ability with arm and his legs.
FACTS & FIGURES
Illinois will face its fourth AP Top-25 opponent of the year. The Illini have lost 19 consecutive games against teams ranked in the AP poll. . Jackson has rushed for over 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons. He joins Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne as the only other Big Ten player to complete the feat. ... Northwestern has the No. 1 red zone offense in the Big Ten, scoring on 44 of 47 trips inside the 20. . Illinois has lost 11 straight Big Ten games.