Commentary

Week 12 college football preview

Better bowl at stake for Northwestern vs. Wisconsin

Updated: November 20, 2009, 3:34 PM ET
By Scott Powers | ESPNChicago.com

No. 17 Wisconsin (8-2) at Northwestern (7-4)

2:30 p.m. at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill.

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: WGN-AM 720

Web: WGNRadio.com

What you need to know: ESPN.com's experts have Northwestern playing either in the Valero Alamo Bowl against Oklahoma or in the Champs Sports Bowl against Clemson. If the Wildcats can beat Wisconsin, which is tied for second place in the Big Ten with two other teams, they may get themselves into an even better bowl. Wisconsin will be a challenge, though. The Badgers are on a three-game winning streak and lead the Big Ten in rush offense and rush defense. Northwestern's offense will need to get going for the Wildcats to have a chance. It hasn't scored more than 21 points in the past three weeks. Northwestern wide receiver Zeke Markshausen had six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown in last week's win over Illinois.

Scott Powers' prediction: Wisconsin 31, Northwestern 20

Northern Illinois (7-3) at Ohio (7-3)

1 p.m. at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio

TV: None

Radio: WSCR-AM 670

Web: NIUHuskies.com

What you need to know: ESPN.com's experts have Northern Illinois playing either in the International Bowl against South Florida or in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl against Iowa State. The Huskies can improve on that as they have Ohio, Central Michigan and possibly the MAC championship on their schedule. Northern Illinois is on a four-game winning streak since being upset by Toledo. Huskies quarterback Chandler Harnish returned in last week's win over Ball State after missing the previous three games with a knee injury. Ohio has won the past two weeks by three points each game.

Powers' prediction: Northern Illinois 27, Ohio 17

Southern Illinois (9-1) at Southeast Missouri State (2-8)

1 p.m. at Houck Stadium in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

TV: None

Web: SIUSalukis.com

What you need to know: Southern Illinois looks to close out the regular season ranked No. 1 in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). The Salukis have won nine straight since losing their season-opener 31-28 to Marshall. Running back Deji Karim is one of the best in the FCS and is coming off a 117-yard, three-touchdown performance in last week's 44-24 win over Missouri State. Southern Illinois' secondary leads the country with 21 interceptions and has picked off at least one pass in every game this season. Southeast Missouri State snapped an eight-game losing streak with a win over Murray State last week.

Powers' prediction: Southern Illinois 35, Missouri State 6

Northern Iowa (7-3) at Illinois State (5-5)

Noon at Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill.

TV: None

Web: GoRedbirds.com

What you need to know: Illinois State is coming off a disappointing 30-18 loss to Youngstown State after winning its previous three games. Redbirds quarterback Matt Brown threw for 328 yards last week, but no touchdowns. Illinois State needs to get the ball in the end zone against a tough Northern Iowa team. The Panthers defeated Western Illinois 34-0 last week. Illinois State wide receiver Eyad Salem (83 catches) needs four catches to break the school's single-season reception record.

Powers' prediction: Northern Iowa 27, Illinois State 13

South Dakota State (7-3) at Western Illinois (1-9)

1 p.m. at Hanson Field in Macomb, Ill.

TV: None

Web: GoLeathernecks.com

What you need to know: Western Illinois is on a nine-game losing streak with South Dakota State, one of the better FCS schools, likely to make it 10 in a row. Western Illinois is coming off a 34-0 loss against Northern Iowa. Dre Gibbs had a game-high 80 yards rushing in last week's loss.

Powers' prediction: South Dakota State 31, Western Illinois 7

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.

Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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