First and Big Ten

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Gameday from Champaign: The Battle for Illinois is Sloppy to Start

Kristofer Green

CHAMPAIGN, Il--On a bright, sunshine filled day in Champaign, the annual battle for bragging rights in the state of Illinois is underway.

Both the Illini and Northwestern are riding high. The Wildcats are coming off an upset victory over Iowa and the streaking Illini have seemingly turned their season around after a horrendous start.

For Illinois, the game is critical to the uphill battle they face in becoming bowl eligible. A loss would mean the Illini are home for the holidys for the second consecutive year.

Northwestern is already bowl eligible, but are fighting for position in a league where every team in still in contention for the postseason.

Yet, at the outset of a game with such importance both teams have sputtered to a very sloppy opening.

Illinois' Arrelious Benn was one stumble away from returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown. But even with the good field position, the Illini were unable to move the ball any further and had to punt.

Northwestern was held to a three and out on their first drive after Illinois defensive end Clay Nurse forced a intentional grounding call on Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka.

Illinois, after Stefan Demos shanked a Northwestern punt, was set up around the Wildcats 30 yard line. The Illini drove the ball all the way to the Northwestern three yard line before having to settle for the field goal attempt.

Matt Eller missed.

It could be a long day in Champaign if these teams don't get it together.

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