Originally written on Fox Sports  |  Last updated 11/18/14
In line for a quality bowl, Northwestern has its ticket out and ready to be punched. That would appear to be little more than a formality for the Wildcats with a home game against Illinois on Saturday, except they know better. They know all about their recent history against the Illini, and it's not good. That explains why they're just a little apprehensive about Saturday's game, no matter how poor the Illini are playing. ''There is no question this is a huge rivalry,'' coach Pat Fitzgerald said. And there's no debate, either, that his team has come up short against Illinois the past two years. Now, Northwestern (8-3, 4-3 Big Ten) appears to be in a good spot after beating Michigan State 23-20 and shaking off a brutal overtime loss at Michigan. That's something the Illini (2-9, 0-7) can't say. The free fall that began after a 6-0 start under Ron Zook last season still is going strong under new coach Tim Beckman with eight straight losses overall and 13 in a row in conference pl...
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