No. 23 Northwestern looks for its seventh straight win when it concludes the regular season on the road against Illinois in the battle for the Land of Lincoln Trophy on Saturday. The Wildcats are riding their longest winning streak since 1996 following a 39-0 rout of Minnesota, which vaulted Pat Fitzgerald’s team into the Top 25 and kept it on track to win 10 games for the second time in three seasons.
Northwestern has scored 31 or more points in three of its last four games and hopes its offense continues to click as it searches for its third consecutive win in the rivalry with the Fighting Illini. Illinois is left to pick up the pieces after being held to 105 total yards in the 52-14 setback to eighth-ranked Ohio State. The Fighting Illini have dropped nine consecutive games under second-year head coach Lovie Smith and hope to give their fans something to cheer about by knocking off a ranked opponent for the first time since beating Minnesota 28-24 on Oct. 25, 2014. “We’re down to one more game left in our football season and we’re playing our rival,” Smith told reporters. “So hopefully we get a couple of guys back and play better than we did on Saturday.”
TV: 4 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1. LINE: Northwestern -16.5
ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (8-3, 6-2 Big Ten): Justin Jackson racked up 166 yards on the ground in the win against Minnesota to become the sixth player in Big Ten history to reach 5,000 rushing yards. Linebacker Nate Hall was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after recording seven tackles, 2.5 sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery against the Golden Gophers. “I‘m having more fun than I’ve ever had playing this game,” Hall told reporters. “I‘m just doing my job out there but credit to the guys up front that made everything possible.”
ABOUT ILLINOIS (2-9, 0-8): Freshman quarterback Cam Miller rushed for a nine-yard touchdown on his first collegiate snap and defensive back Ahmari Hayes took back a fumble 54 yards for his first career score in the loss to Ohio State. Chayce Crouch was limited to 16 yards on 4-of-14 passing before suffering an upper-body injury in the fourth quarter against the Buckeyes and is questionable for Saturday’s clash. The Fighting Illini and Missouri, who haven’t played each other since 2010, reached a four-year deal to renew their Border War rivalry starting in 2026.
1. Northwestern has won four consecutive home games.
2. Illinois has been held to 17 points or fewer in seven of its last eight contests.
3. Jackson is the second player in Big Ten history to rush for over 1,000 yards in four straight seasons.
PREDICTION: Northwestern 35, Illinois 13