Northwestern vs. Illinois State Prediction, Game Preview

Northwestern vs. Illinois State prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins between the Wildcats and Redbirds.

Northwestern vs. Illinois State Game Preview

When: Saturday, Sept. 10 – 3:30 ET 

Where: Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill. 
Broadcast: Big Ten Network 
Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald is set on building his alma mater into one of the better teams in the Big Ten. Losing to Western Michigan at home isn’t going to cut it. The Wildcats let a victory slip through their fingers – literally – and now must put that behind them quickly with another upset-minded team coming to town in Illinois State. 
The Redbirds are two years removed from playing in the FCS championship game and remain one of the best teams in that division. They had to replace their starting quarterback and record-setting running back but didn’t have any trouble scoring in a 50-13 win over Valparaiso in their opener.

What To Know About Northwestern

Can Northwestern bounce back after that heartbreaking defeat? Quarterback Clayton Thorson ran left on a keeper with the Wildcats down one with three minutes remaining, lunged for the goal line and had the ball stripped. It rolled into the end zone, where a Western Michigan player tossed the ball back into play and the Wildcats fell on it. A review ruled the play to be a touchback, and Northwestern lost the ball and the game. It spoiled a great performance from Justin Jackson, one of the Big Ten’s top running backs who finished with 124 yards and three touchdowns.

What to Know About Illinois State

Gone are dual-threat quarterback Tre Roberson and All-American running back Marshaun Coprich who helped Illinois State to an FCS runner-up finish in 2014. The Redbirds put up 50 points on an overmatched Valpo team, but new quarterback Jake Kolbe will have to make better decisions after having an interception returned for a touchdown. He did run for a score, but he’s not nearly the threat Roberson was on the ground. Sophomore running back George Moreira showed he can be dangerous after finishing with 93 yards and a touchdown on only seven carries.


Offense: Northwestern – Jackson is the difference and should have another big game. 

Defense:  Northwestern – The Wildcats simply have more talent on this side of the ball, but they’ll need to be better after allowing nearly 200 rushing yards against Western Michigan. 
Special Teams: Northwestern – Hunter Niswander and Solomon Vault are dangerous returners. 
Coaching: Northwestern – Brock Spack has shown he’s a great FCS coach, but Fitzgerald still holds the edge here. 
Intangibles: Illinois State – The Redbirds see an opening to pull off an upset after Northwestern crumbled last week.

Matchup To Watch

Jackson vs. Illinois State’s defense

Northwestern leans on Jackson and he produces more often than not. Illinois State allowed only 22 yards on the ground against Valpo last week, though, and forced three turnovers.

Betting Odds

Spread: No Line 

Over/Under: No Line

Northwestern vs. Illinois State Prediction

Jackson runs for three touchdowns and puts the game away early, helping Northwestern bounce back from last week’s stunning defeat. 

Northwestern vs. Illinois State Final Score Prediction: Northwestern 38, Illinois State 7

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