Friday, November 19, 2010
Week 12 capsules: NU-Illinois and more
By Scott Powers and Wes Morgan
Illinois (5-5) vs. Northwestern (7-3) on Saturday
When, where: 2:35 p.m. at Wrigley Field in Chicago
Radio: WIND-560 AM, WGN-720 AM
What you need to know: The actual game between Illinois and Northwestern has almost become secondary to everything else that has occurred this week leading up to the first football game at Wrigley Field since 1970. The biggest news came Friday when the Big Ten decided only the west end zone would be used due to concerns over the proximity of Wrigley's right-field wall to the east end zone. As for the game, it's a vital one for Illinois. The Illini are coming off an embarrassing home loss to Minnesota and still need another win to become bowl eligible. Illinois' defense has been suspect over the last few weeks and may need to straighten itself out to save coach Ron Zook's job. Northwestern does have its own issue. After delivering the game-winning touchdown pass against Iowa last week, junior quarterback Dan Persa, who had been among the best in the country, suffered a season-ending injury. In steps redshirt freshman Evan Watkins to make his first collegiate starter. The Wildcats have put themselves in a favorable position now with seven wins.
Scott Powers' prediction: Northwestern 27, Illinois 21
Notre Dame (5-5) vs. Army (6-4) on Saturday
When, where: 6:30 p.m. at Yankee Stadium in New York City
Radio: WLS-AM 890.
Web: und.com, goarmysports.com
What you need to know: Confidence is high for Notre Dame, which got back to .500 with a dominant performance against Utah in a 28-3 victory last weekend. Army beat Kent State last week to become bowl eligible. The 50th installment of this great rivalry picks up after the Irish topped the Black Knights in 2006. The top storyline for Notre Dame is whether or not it can stop a triple-option offense after struggling mightily against the same look versus Navy. If Brian Kelly's squad can make the necessary adjustments, it will earn a postseason invitation that looked unlikely just a couple weeks ago. Freshman quarterback Tommy Rees was poised against the Utes, completing 13-of-20 pass attempts for 129 yards and three touchdowns. Senior receiver Duval Kamara, getting more playing time due to many injuries on that unit, caught two of those TDs. Notre Dame, led by sophomore Cierre Wood, also managed to put up 127 rushing yards against Utah. Safety Harrison Smith continues to have a banner season with three interceptions for ND. Army averages less than 90 yards passing per game but moves the ball effectively on the ground, averaging 273 yards per contest. Paced by Jared Hassin, the Black Knights boast four players averaging over 40 rushing yards per game, including QB Trent Steelman, who also has thrown for five scores.
Wes Morgan's prediction: Notre Dame 31, Army 24.
Northern Illinois (8-2) at Ball State (4-7) on Saturday
When, where: 11 a.m. at Scheumann Stadium in Muncie, Ind.
Radio: WSCR-670 AM
What you need to know: Northern Illinois is one of the hottest teams in the country right now. The Huskies have won seven straight and should make it eight against a Ball State team that has struggled for most of the season. Northern Illinois also had had plenty of time to prepare for this game with its last one occurring on Nov. 9. Running back Chad Spann and quarterback Chandler Harnish have been stellar all season. Spann has rushed 1,070 yards and 15 touchdowns. Harnish has compiled 2,309 total yards of offense and scored 18 touchdowns.
Powers' prediction: Northern Illinois 38, Ball State 13
Indiana State (6-4) at Southern Illinois (4-6) on Saturday
When, where: 1 p.m. at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale, Ill.
What you need to know: The 2010 season has been a rocky one for Southern Illinois, but the Salukis can end it on a high note with a win over Indiana State. Southern Illinois is coming off a 20-10 win over Western Illinois. Jayson DiManche had three sacks in the win, Western Illinois had negative seven yards rushing against the Salukis' defense. Indiana State's last five games have been decided by 12 points or less.
Powers' prediction: Southern Illinois 27, Indiana State 24
Northern Iowa (7-3) at Western Illinois (6-4) on Saturday
When, where: 1 p.m. at Hanson Field in Macomb, Ill.
What you need to know: Western Illinois has yet to lose at Hanson Field this season. The Leathernecks are 5-0 at home and 1-4 on the road. Western Illinois ranks second in total offense in the FCS. It would help its chances of receiving an FCS Playoffs' berth with a win over a tough Northern Iowa team. The Panthers have defeated Western Illinois in six of their last seven meetings.
Powers' prediction: Northern Iowa 37, Western Illinois 31