College Football
Northwestern vs Illinois
When: 3:30 PM ET, Saturday, November 28, 2015
Where: Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois

Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, Northwestern hopes to earn a 10th victory and some more favor from the College Football Playoff rankings, where they sit 17th. With a win over Illinois in their game Saturday at Soldier Field in Chicago, the Wildcats would have a chance to move up in the rankings for a possible spot in a New Year’s Six Bowl.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald’s squad has put together quite a resume, but falling to its in-state rival would put a damper on the momentum the team has built with a four-game winning streak. The Wildcats have been able to pull out some close ones during that streak, winning by a combined 17 points following 38- and 30-point losses to Michigan and Iowa, respectively. The Illini are fighting to become bowl eligible, having dropped five of six after a 4-1 start. It would be quite a turnaround for the program, which let coach Tim Beckman go a week before the start of the season with replacement Bill Cubit expected to learn Sunday whether Illinois will remove the interim coaching tag.

TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU. LINE: Northwestern -3.5

ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (9-2, 5-2 Big Ten): Many coaches shy away from talking about the big accomplishments that a squad can reach at season’s end, but not Fitzgerald. With victories against Illinois and in a bowl game, this year’s edition of the Wildcats could be the first in school history with 11 wins, something Fitzgerald has made sure his team knows. “I’m not afraid to talk about the realities of situations,” Fitzgerald told reporters. “Maybe it’s counter to the way some people think, but we understand the opportunity we have in front of us.”

ABOUT ILLINOIS (5-6, 2-5): Cubit is doing his best to focus on the game on the field this week and not his future and whether he’ll continue as the Illini coach. While there’s a lot of talk around him by the media and others, Cubit is doing what he can to become the fourth first-year coach at Illinois to reach six wins in the last 100 years. “I know it sounds crazy, but I don’t think about it,” Cubit told reporters. “Other people outside probably worry about it a lot more than I do. Maybe my wife does and maybe my children do, but I just feel lucky that I’m able to do what I’m doing right now.”


1. Northwestern DE Deonte Gibson set career-best totals with three sacks and four tackles for loss against Wisconsin last week.

2. Illinois RB Josh Ferguson has 389 all-purpose yards in the last three games and sits 12 yards away from moving into sixth place on the school’s all-time rushing list.

3. Wildcats RB Justin Jackson is third in the Big Ten and 21st in the country in rushing yards with 1,172 and needs 107 against the Illini to reach seventh on the school’s all-time rushing list.

PREDICTION: Northwestern 24, Illinois 16
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W‑L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf Conf
Northwestern 9-2 W4 20.4 16.6 6-1 3-1 7-1 0-0 5-2
Illinois 5-6 L2 23.5 23.2 4-2 1-4 1-2 0-0 2-5
Last Meeting
Northwestern Illinois
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
11/29/14 ILL 47 NW 33 372 154 218 438 291 147
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Northwestern Z. Oliver 60.5 221 1 3
Illinois R. O'Toole 60.7 147 3 1
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Northwestern J. Jackson 24 130 5.4 2
Illinois R. O'Toole 21 147 7.0 0
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Northwestern T. Jones 4 50 12.5 0
Illinois M. Dudek 7 63 9.0 1
Touchdowns Player TD
Northwestern J. Jackson 2
Illinois J. Ferguson 2
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Northwestern C. Thorson 52.0 1319 6 6
Illinois W. Lunt 56.8 2520 14 5
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Northwestern J. Jackson 261 1172 4.5 3
Illinois J. Ferguson 115 668 5.8 3
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Northwestern D. Vitale 30 323 10.8 3
Illinois G. Allison 60 840 14.0 3
Touchdowns Player TD
Northwestern C. Thorson 5
Illinois K. Vaughn 6
Quickchart Matchup
Northwestern Northwestern Off vs  Illinois Illinois Def
Northwestern 331 yards
Illinois 350.9 yards
Northwestern 4.2 yards/rush
Illinois 4.3 yards/rush
Northwestern 5.2 yards/attempt
Illinois 5.6 yards/attempt
Illinois Illinois Off vs  Northwestern Northwestern Def
Illinois 377.5 yards
Northwestern 309.7 yards
Illinois 4.1 yards/rush
Northwestern 3.5 yards/rush
Illinois 5.6 yards/attempt
Northwestern 5.4 yards/attempt