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NCAAF Betting Notes: Persa back but defense holds the key for Northwestern

09/27/2011 8:26 AM

SportsMemo.com blog entry.

Northwestern at Illinois -7 O/U 50

Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa is expected to make his seasonal debut this weekend against in-state rival Illinois. Persa was sidelined the first three game with an Achilles' tendon injury stemming from last season. Last year's game took place at Wrigley Field and it was all Illini as they rolled up 559 yards of offense and 48 points. Note than it was Northwestern's first game without Persa who prior to being injured was in the midst of a monster season (73.5% completions, 24 total TDs). But even with Persa back, the Wildcats will still need to play much better defense that what we’ve see over the last calendar year. According to our ACCU-Stats, the Wildcats were outgained in all three games both on the ground and through the air in terms of yards per play with the lone exception being a passing edge over Army. The level of competition wasn't exactly stellar either (Boston College, Eastern Illinois, Army). For bettors wishing to back Northwestern in this spot, Persa's return appears secondary to whether or not they can stop Illinois’ offense.

"I fully anticipate that Dan will play," coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "How much and all those things are to be determined in how the week goes. ... He's not only mentally ready, he's chomping at the bit to play."

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