SOC - Northwestern 2022
I'm in my Chicago hotel room and I'm nervous. I didn't think I'd be nervous but I'm nervous. Let's talk about why I might be nervous.
First off, it's Northwestern. Losing to them as many times as we lost to them the last 20 years has been really difficult to stomach. I grew up in the age of "Northwestern doesn't invest in athletics so their football and basketball teams nearly always finish dead last." This is where I'd look up our record against them the last 20 years and say something like "the fact that we're X-X against Northwestern" but I can't bring myself to look it up. I don't want that information in my brain.
Two, I'm nervous because Iowa lost. Now it's as simple as "Illinois wins, Purdue loses, Illinois goes to Indy". I thought my dreams of Indy were long gone when we lost three in a row, but now we could possibly get there at 5-4 in the conference? All we need is for Purdue to lose at Indiana? Having something to (possibly) play for makes me nervous.
But really, the main reason I'm nervous is because of what a loss would mean. A loss would take all of the wind out of the sails. I don't want to take the wind out of the sails. I want full sails (8-4) as we head off to a bowl game. 7-5 with a four-game losing streak would be very difficult to stomach.
So if I'm honest, that's probably why I'm so nervous as I type this out. There's a risk of the feeling I had after the Nebraska game ("seven wins! SEVEN!") completely going away. 8-4 is still an extremely satisfying season. 7-5 would have all of this offseason baggage.
And that's insane, right? Think if you told me before the season that I'd be sitting down to write the Northwestern SOC and instead of writing my typical "if we lose to Northwestern tomorrow to finish 5-7 and out of the bowl picture I might throw up" I'd be writing the words "7-5 would have all of this offseason baggage." 7-5 and BAGGAGE? Yeah, a four game losing streak would be baggage. Especially if we also lost the bowl game to finish the season with five consecutive losses. There's just no way to spin five consecutive losses during the offseason (recruiting season).
(True story: I just went into the bathroom and trimmed my fingernails. I guess I don't bite my fingernails when nervous - I clip them. My wife is asleep, so I had to clip them in the bathroom so that I wouldn't wake her up. I couldn't handle typing one more word without trimming my nails, so that's what I did. It's decided: I'm really, really nervous.)
I have friends who are all "we are going to DESTROY Northwestern - they're 1-10", but I'm not there at all. I remember what happened in 2019 when Northwestern was 2-9 and we were headed to a bowl. And I've seen the scores this weekend. It seems like all rivalry games have been close.
In fact, let me look that up. Here's some rivalry games so far:
Mississippi State 24, Ole Miss 22
Arizona 38, Arizona State 35
Missouri 29, Arkansas 27
Nebraska 24, Iowa 17
Florida State 45, Florida 38
NC State 30, North Carolina 27
That's why I don't like this feeling. Northwestern is 1-10, but you know they'll be fired up for this one. They put a scare into Ohio State a few weeks ago and then came up just short against Purdue last week. They're playing better, and even though they're 1-10, they want that hat back.
So I'm nervous as hell. And it's really pushing me to predict a loss. But I can't do it. I'm setting all of those emotions aside and just getting to a prediction down on paper before these emotions completely take over.
Chase + the defense do what they do and we win. It's somewhat close, but we win. I just want this win. Please get this win.
Illinois 24, Northwestern 13