Lowes Line


Illinois Preview and Prediction

By Eric Cockerill

Matchup: #22 Northwestern Wildcats (8-3, 6-2) at Illinois Illini (2-9, 0-8)
When: Saturday, November 25, 2017, 3:00 p.m. CST
Line: NU (-16.5), O/U 46 (ESPN FPI: 89.3% NU)

The following may, or may not be based on actual events:
E:  “So, why exactly are we out here?  The traffic is ridiculous”
A:  “She gave me a list of things I need to get today.  I promised to get all of them at huge deals and then I can sit and watch football all day tomorrow.”
E:  “This seems like a bad idea to me.  Haven’t you heard of Amazon?”
A:  “It’ll be fine.  No sweat.  I’m sure the good weather is keeping people a home.  How did Northwestern do last week?  I was busy fixing the furnace.”
E:  “They embarrassed Minnesota, 39-0.  Ran all over them, and barely had to throw the ball.  The rain really helped as well since it was tough for either team to throw, but credit the defense for pushing the Gophers around all day.”
A:  “So that makes them 8-3 right?  Another win to get to 9-3 and a good bowl game.”
E:  “And ranked #22 with Illinois on deck.  Hard to believe this team lost to Duke, though that’s ignoring the three OT wins. They could just as easily be looking for win number 6 to get to the Motor City Bowl…again.”
A:  “Buck up, we’re at the first stop.”
E:  “Best Buy…look at the damn line already.”

E:  “Come on lady, why do you need nine Kindle Fire 8” tablets?”
A:  “Damn, did you see the look she gave you?  Maybe she has a lot of grandkids.  Let’s just hang out and see if she changes her mind and we can snag one of the last ones.  Is Illinois still coached by that Cuddly Bear guy?  What’s his name?  Puffy?  Cushy?”
E:  “Yeah, still coached by Lovie.  Quite a downfall considering he coached the Bears to a Super Bowl and now is in his second straight pathetically losing season.  To be fair, this is the first year he had his own recruiting class, but it was pretty bad.  I’m betting there’s a chance he gets axed after the season…not likely, but definitely in the cards.  Illinois fans don’t have a reputation for patience.  For some reason, they think it’s the eighties and they’re still a decent program.  Despite records, they'll still be surprised that they lose to NU.”
A:  “Nine straight losses will put anyone on the hot seat I’d think.  Anyone I’d recognize on that team?”
E:  “Really only one.  Jeff George Junior is the primary quarterback…that Jeff George’s son.  Technically, he's the backup but started 7 games this year.  Honestly they’ve got some decent players on offense, but they can’t seem to put together a decent game together.  Obviously, it doesn’t help that their defense is not very good…”

A:  “Quick, while she tying her shoe, grab one those tablets out of her cart and let’s go!”

E:  “I don’t remember IPhones being on the list…and there’s no discount.”
A:  “Seriously, it’ll be fine. If I get her one too, she’ll be fine with it.  I’ll take two of the 8 pluses.”
[Clearly frazzled saleswoman]:  “I’ll have them brought right out.”
A:  “So seriously, how has NU done it this year?”
E:  “Couple of things I think.  Obviously, a big thing is some of the other Big Ten teams are having down years at the same time.  Nebraska is uncharacteristically weak, MSU and Iowa are inconsistent.  Maryland, Purdue, Minnesota and Illinois are just really not very good.  But that shouldn’t take away from the team.  The defense and offensive line have gotten noticeably better over the season.  Running backs are obviously a strength.  Wide receivers are a weakness, but McCann seems to have figured out how to get the most out of them.  Thorson is serviceable if he’s given enough time to work, though he cracks under pressure.”
A:  “There seems to be a lot of grumbling among the fan base.  A guy at work was bitching AFTER the Minnesota win.”
E:  “Yeah, I think it’s to be expected.  The problem is that Fitzgerald has put his stamp on the team and he’s very old school Big Ten.  He’s conservative and would much prefer to win with defense and a strong running game.  He obviously thinks any “fancy gimmicks”, like a hurry up, no huddle offense or complex options are distractions that detract from execution of the little things, which he loves to talk about.  As a spectator, it can seem like he’s not really giving the team a chance to win in the tougher games.  Plus, the Duke-type loss seems to be happening a lot… you know, an early season loss against a team they should beat.  Points to either the coaches being too conservative early in the season or not having the team ready to execute.  Either way, it’s disturbing.  All that said, it’s definitely a percentages thing…his system seems to deliver between 6 and 10 wins a season depending on which way the ball bounces.  A losing season would be surprising, but so would NU getting into the national conversation regarding the national playoffs.  That should be acceptable year-to-year, but some of the conservative decision making can be frustrating.”
[Clearly frazzled saleswoman]:  “Here are your phones.  Total is $2040 with tax.”
A:  “Great.  Hey, can I get an extra bag?”
[Clearly frazzled saleswoman]:  “Sorry, we always run out of bags so I can’t give out more than one.”
E:  “What?  He just spent two grand!?!!?”
[Clearly frazzled saleswoman]:  “Security!”

A:  “Yeah, yeah, I’ll return them.  I just thought………..OK, OK.”  [Hangs up]  “Damn anti-fraud notifications.”
E:  “I’m not saying anything.”
A:  “I’ll have to go back tomorrow to return them.  Security personnel will have changed.  Besides they’re looking for you anyway.”
E:  “Fine, you should have plenty of time to make it back before the game at 3.  Are we almost done?  You promised Hooters like 3 hours ago.”
A:  “Yeah.  Last thing on the list.  What’s the difference here?   List says Nintendo Switch, but this thing isn’t on sale.  Besides, I've never heard of that before.  This other Wii U console is 30% off.”
E:  “I’m pretty sure the Wii U is not cool.”
A:  “Help me find a salesperson….by the way, my neighbor wants to bet on the NU game.  What do you think?”
E:  “I really expect more of what happened last week.  Run, run, throw, decide that was a bad idea, and run some more.  No reason to save Justin Jackson for next season.  Without the rain, it’s probably not going to be quite so easy as last week.  16.5 point spread is a lot and Illinois plays better at home.  I’d say NU 28 – Illinois 14.
A:  “So, you thing they’ll take home that tailpipe trophy again this year?”
E:  “Stovepipe hat!  Yeah, seems like the Land of Lincoln trophy will be returning to Evanston.”
A:  “These damn salespeople are ignoring us.  I’ll just get the Wii U.  I’m sure the kids will be happy enough with it.”
Prediction:  A win seems virtually a lock, but the score is a crap shoot.  Illinois has nothing to lose and a single mistake could make it closer than expected.  Count on the Illini to play tougher at home.   NU 28, Illinois 14.  Cats win easily, but not enough to cover.
Season to Date: 7-4 ATS; 5-6 straight up.


The Lowes Line is an e-mailed description of NU's next football game, with an invariably fearless prediction of the outcome and how NU will fare against what the other "experts" predict.  Our good friend and Brother Marcus Lowes began the broadcast mailing in 1996.  The crack Lowes Line Staff (alumni Jersey Cat, GallopingGrapes, Eric Cockerill, Joel Kanvik, Charlie Simon, and MO'Cats) have continued the Line in memory of Marcus.  For the 2017 season it has returned to HailToPurple.com, for anyone to enjoy.  Thanks to the gridiron brain trust at the Lowes Line!