Games to Watch - No. 1

The list of Illinois games to watch continues with the in-state, Big Ten rival.

No. 1 - Northwestern - Sat., Nov., 30 - Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.

Last year's score is reason enough.

50-14. That's how bad Northwestern beat Illinois in 2012. And yeah, it was the last game of the year. And yeah, the Illini had lost the previous eight games. And yeah, it had been 13 Big Ten contests in a row since a conference win.

But still, it was Northwestern, the in-state rival. Instead of a chance to send the seniors out on a good note or help improve moral among the fan base, the game was an ugly end to an even uglier means.

So last year's performance should be reason enough for motivation for this season's contest. I'm sure it will be.

The game can't be confined to a redemption theme though. I'm talking about the importance of perception of program. Status in the Big Ten. Standing within the state.

What all that impacts is recruiting, which is, of course, how you ultimately have success. The Illinois staff is pushing the 'our state, our team' motto. Hard. And from the time I've spent talking to Illinois high school players, it's working. But 50-14 losses to the other Big Ten school in the state can't happen anymore.

Talking the talk in recruiting can get you in the door. Showing is better than telling, though, when it comes to getting the names signed to LOIs on the first Wednesday in February.

Northwestern has now won seven of the last 10 meetings. None of that will matter if Illinois gets a win this year.

Good runs over the course of a decade have to start with the first victory. Big changes in perceptions, after all, happen after small steps in the right direction.

All-time record: Illinois leads 54-46-5
Last time: Northwestern 50, Illinois 14 - Ryan Field - Evanston, Ill.

Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter threw for three touchdowns and tailback Venric Mark rushed for 127 yards as the Wildcats crushed Illinois 50-14.

The loss snapped an Illini two-game winning steak in the rivalry game. Illinois committed four turnovers and had eight penalties in the loss -- it's ninth straight and 14th in a row in the Big Ten.

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