First Look: Northwestern Wildcats (2-9, 0-8)

Matthew Stevens

Date/time: Saturday, Nov. 30, 11 a.m. CST

Location: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.

Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 60,670

Schedule/records: Illinois 6-5 overall, 4-4 Big Ten, 4-8 in 2018 (2-7 in Big Ten); Northwestern 2-9 overall, 0-8 in Big Ten, 9-4 (8-1 in Big Ten) in 2018.

Series notes: Saturday’s game will be the 113th meeting between Illinois and Northwestern. Illinois leads the all-time series 55-52-5. Illinois is 27-30-1 when playing the Wildcats in the Illini’s Big Ten finale. Illinois’ last win in the series was a 47-33 victory in Evanston in 2014. The Illini used 291 yards rushing to reclaim the Land of Lincoln Trophy and with a 47-33 win over Northwestern in the 2014 regular-season finale. Illinois forced five turnovers - three interceptions and two fumbles - and held the Wildcats to 62 yards in the first half. The Fighting Illini and Wildcats played for the “Sweet Sioux” Tomahawk from 1947-2008. Illinois led the traditional trophy series by a 32-28-2 mark, but Northwestern won the final meeting for the Tomahawk with its 27-10 win in 2008. The Tomahawk was retired following the 2008 season.

TV: BTN

Early line: Illinois by 8.5

Northwestern quarterback Andrew Marty (7) celebrates his touchdown against Minnesota during the second half at Ryan Field.
Northwestern quarterback Andrew Marty (7) celebrates his touchdown against Minnesota during the second half at Ryan Field.David Banks/USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern's revolving door of quarterbacks has landed on Andrew Marty

After coming into last week's loss to Minnesota following an injury to starter Hunter Johnson, Andrew Marty's significant collegiate debut was more than successful. Marty was the fourth quarterback to attempt a pass for Northwestern this season. After Johnson failed to move the ball at all in the first quarter against No. 10 Minnesota, Marty avoided getting sacked and accounted for three touchdowns. Marty completed 8-of-10 passes for 95 yards and his first career passing touchdown. He also rushed a career-high 16 times for 52 yards and two touchdowns. The Ohio native is the first NU quarterback with two rushing touchdowns in a game since Clayton Thorson against Notre Dame on Nov. 3, 2018. His three touchdowns overall also are the most since Thorson did so against Illinois last season.

Northwestern's new all-time sack leader is Joe Gaziano

Senior defensive end Joe Gaziano had 1.5 sacks versus Minnesota to pass Casey Daily (1994-97) as the program's all-time sacks leader with 29. Gaziano leads the Wildcats with eight sacks this season, just one shy of his career-high of nine set in 2017. In addition to setting the all-time sacks record last week, Gaziano moved into second place all-time in tackles for loss. Gaziano moved past Dwayne Missouri (45; 1997-2000) into second with 46.5 TFLs. Dailey holds the Northwestern record for career tackles for loss with 53. Gaziano finished last week's game with five tackles, 1.5 sacks and two passes defended, becoming just the fourth player in the country this season to do so. Gaziano recorded two pass breakups versus Minnesota, marking the second-straight game he recorded multiple pass breakups. He is the first Wildcat defensive lineman to record multiple passes breakups in back-to-back games since at least 2005.

Can Illinois restart the run game against an injury-riddled Northwestern defense? 

After holding Purdue and Massachusetts to a combined 157 rushing yards, Minnesota managed to finally break through an injury-riddled Northwestern front seven for 212 yards on the ground. The Wildcats have lost two opening game starters on the defensive line and rank 59th in the Football Bowl Subdivision, giving up 148 yards per game. In last week's loss at Iowa, Brandon Peters led the Illini in rushing with 76 yards on 10 carries and senior tailback Dre Brown had 67 yards on 14 carries. When Northwestern outrushes its opponent under head coach Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats are 25-56 when the opponent ends the game with more rushing yards.  

Lovie Smith on this rivalry game vs. Northwestern:

“We haven’t beaten them since I’ve been here. We’re a better football team. I know what they’re record is but it’s rivalry week. A lot of the same comments across the country this week are being made. It doesn’t matter what they’re record is and when you play a rival that’s definitely the case. Any team that is coached by Pat Fitzgerald, you know how they’re going to play. They’ll play clean football the entire way. We’ll be doing the same thing.”

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