Well, it's come to this. Battle for the LOL hat and a trip to the postseason is on the line this weekend when Illinois takes on the Northwestern Wildcats. It's been an up-and-down season for both teams, but with the announcement that starting QB Trevor Siemian is out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL, it gives Illini fans a larger glimmer of hope. Did it give the staff writers one too? They weigh in on what they think will happen below.
Jim Vainisi --- Northwestern 17, Illinois 13
Your move, Mike Thomas.
Mark Primiano --- Northwestern 28, Illinois 24
I want a win so badly, but I don't see it.
Aaron Rench --- Illinois 27, Northwestern 24
I'll be honest, I'm nervous about this game, which doesn't happen unless I think we can win. It'll be tough since a large chunk of our starting lines (both offensive and defensive) have injuries and our quarterback position suddenly seems in question. But the Fighting Illini can win. This isn't the same team that started the season and this version knows how to do just enough to get ahead. Trust me -- it'll work.
Colin Whitchurch --- Illinois 45, Northwestern 42
There's no rhyme or reason behind this pick. This game is absurd. This season is absurd. THE ILLINI ARE GOING BOWLING! LONG LIVE TIM BECKMAN!
Bryce Smith --- Illinois 27, Northwestern 24
I've thought about this for a while. Northwestern is the better team. But I believe Illinois and its seniors have more will and that will lead them to victory. Reilly O'Toole, Austin Teitsma and Earnest Thomas III will not let this be their last game and they will lead the team to a bowl game. Underclassman such as Darius Mosely and Jihad Ward will also contribute to the win for the seniors. With help from the defense, Illinois should win this game even though they aren't supposed to with a little bit of luck. After last year, and many others, something will finally go their way to end the season. HAT.
Brad Repplinger --- Illinois 31, Northwestern 0
Reilly ball. Shutout. Kool-Aid. Hat.
Brandon Cain --- I flipped a coin. Northwestern won. That sums up the Illini season pretty well.
Trevor Vallese --- Illinois 21, Northwestern 16
Wes Lunt will start the game, but Reilly O'Toole will be allowed another senior year moment in the second half. He'll lead the offense on two late touchdown drives and the Illini will ultimately win the game in the fourth quarter. Chants of "I-L-L" and "I-N-I" will ring loud throughout Ryan Field as O'Toole hoists the Land of Lincoln hat in celebration. Illinois will go to a small bowl game and Beckman will be retained for a fourth, make it or break it, season.
Bonus Prediction: Earnest Thomas III will come up with several big plays on defense including a game-clinching interception with less than a minute to go.
Matt Silich's prediction can always be found in his excellent weekly game preview (seriously, check it out). Be sure to drop by below to tell us what you think is going to happen against Northwestern!