Northwestern (4-7) at Illinois (4-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 30, 3:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Memorial Stadium (60,670) -- Champaign, Illinois. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: NU 3-4, Illinois 3-3. Away Record: NU 1-3, Illinois 1-3. Neutral Record: NU 0-0, Illinois 0-1. Conference Record: NU 0-7, Illinois 1-6. Series Record: Illinois leads, 54-47-5.
GAME NOTES: A pair of disappointing Big Ten Conference teams will attempt to close out the season on a high note, as the Illinois Fighting Illini host the Northwestern Wildcats in a battle for the Land of Lincoln Trophy.
Coming off a 10-win season in 2012, Northwestern carried that momentum into the beginning of the 2013 campaign by reeling off four straight wins, but since entering Big Ten action it has fallen flat with seven straight losses, sinking to the bottom of the Legends Division in the process. The Wildcats were most recently handled by nationally-ranked Michigan State at home last weekend, 30-6.
Illinois has also had its fair share of troubles this season at 4-7 overall, but after suffering a six-game losing streak, it finally snapped out of it with a 20-16 road victory over Purdue last Saturday. The triumph ended the Illini's 20-game losing streak against Big Ten foes.
These two teams have met 106 times previously, with Illinois staking claim to a 54-47-5 advantage. This marks the fifth time the teams will play for the right to hoist the Land of Lincoln Trophy, with each side winning twice. Northwestern won last season in Evanston, 50-14.
Northwestern's offense has been stuck in neutral all season long, as it ranks 11th in the conference in scoring only 25.2 points per game, and it reached new lows in the loss to MSU by amassing just six points and 319 yards while turning the ball over three times.
Trevor Siemian has had an unproductive season under center, completing fewer than 58 percent of his passes for 1,735 yards with seven touchdowns and nine interceptions. Kain Colter has been mixed in and has shown promise as both a passer (.788, 577 yards, four TDs) and a rusher (489 yards, five TDs), but he is listed as questionable for this contest with an upper body injury.
Treyvon Green was bottled up by the stout MSU defense, totaling just 25 yards on 11 carries, but on the season he has been solid with 667 yards on 116 attempts while crossing into the end zone eight times.
At receiver, Tony Jones (50 receptions, 586 yards, four TDs) is Siemian's favorite target, while Christian Jones (41 receptions, 486 yards, two TDs) has also been stellar.
The Wildcats' have played well on defense, as they have picked off a league- high 18 passes, but even though their scoring yield appears respectable (26.5 ppg), the number ranks in the bottom have of the conference.
Chi Chi Ariguzo has 92 tackles, 6.0 TFL, four interceptions and a forced fumble, while Ibraheim Campbell (four INTs), Collin Ellis (three INTs) and Dean Lowry (two INTs, two FF) have also made their mark with regard to takeaways. Damien Proby (98 tackles) and Tyler Scott (10 TFL, 6.0 sacks) are also having strong seasons.
Despite its poor record, Illinois' offense has actually performed quite well in posting 29.3 points and 420.7 yards per game.
With the Illini often playing from behind, Nathan Scheelhaase has been able to rack up the stats. He has completing 66.5 percent of his passes for a Big Ten- leading 2,965 yards with 23 touchdowns (four rushing), but his gun-slinging mentality has also resulted in a league-worst 12 interceptions.
Steve Hull was outstanding in last week's win with 10 receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns, and he has been one of the nation's best big-play threats at receiver all season long, turning 46 receptions into 838 yards (18.2 yards per catch) and six scores.
Josh Ferguson is an impressive multi-purpose tailback. Not only has he rushed for 669 yards and five touchdowns, but he is heavily utilized in the passing game with a team-high 47 receptions for 509 yards and four more scores.
Where things have gone terribly wrong for the Illini this season has been on the defensive side of the ball, where they allow the third-most points in the conference (35.3 ppg). The unit changed their tune in the win over Purdue, however, as it dominated by allowing just 283 yards.
Jonathan Brown has made plays all over the field with 102 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 5.0 sacks, an interceptions and a forced fumble. Earnest Thomas III (91 tackles, three FF) and Houston Bates (12.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks, two FF, two FR) have also played well.
The Illini finally got back in the win column after more than two years between Big Ten victories, and things are lining up nicely for a mini win streak at home against a floundering Wildcats' squad. With the defense gaining confidence after last week's performance, expect Illinois to put a stamp on Northwestern's winless season in conference play.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois 31, Northwestern 28
11/27 11:12:47 ET