Editor’s note: Read Doug Halberstadt’s Week 1 NFL predictions in the Sept. 7-13 issue.
By Doug Halberstadt
It was an exceptionally good opening weekend for area college football fans. It didn’t matter if you were cheering for Illinois, Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, or Iowa; they were all winners in their first games out in the 2011 season.
Wisconsin got things started off on the right foot last Thursday night in front of a national television audience on ESPN. They destroyed the Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison 51-17. Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson lived up to the hype and made all the off-season talk about him seem worthwhile.
The much-talked-about former North Carolina State star led the Badgers on six scoring drives in the first half, including five touchdowns. Wilson threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, while running back Montee Ball scored four touchdowns for the third straight regular-season game, dating back to last year.
Wisconsin will have another home game televised on ESPN again this weekend. This time, they take on Oregon State in a Saturday (Sept. 10) morning game. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m.
Illinois is coming off a nice win against Arkansas State 33-15. The Illini road the arm of quarterback Nathan Sheelhaase. He had his career-best day. He threw for a total of 267 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Jason Ford rushed for 86 yards and scored two TDs for the orange and blue. Local Boylan graduate and senior kicker Derek Dimke was perfect in his two field goal attempts (31 yards, 19 yards) and on all three of his extra-point attempts.
The Illini will also be at home again for their second game this season. They will host the Jackrabbits from South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits bring a 1-0 record into Memorial Stadium. They escaped week one with a 1-point victory over Southern Utah 29-28 last Saturday night, Sept. 3.
The Illini vs. South Dakota State game kicks off at 11 a.m. and will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
Iowa trounced Tennessee Tech 34-7 in a game that was interrupted by severe weather. Fans in Iowa City were evacuated from the stadium because of heavy rain and lightning. The game was suspended for roughly three hours before resuming, and Iowa took care of business. The Hawkeyes face their in-state rival Iowa State this Saturday at Ames. Game time is 11 a.m., and can be seen locally on FOX.
Northern Illinois came out of the box firing last Saturday night, Sept. 3, and defeated visiting Army 49-26 in front of a full house in DeKalb. The Huskies will be out of town this Saturday when they take a trip to Kansas to take on the Jayhawks. The Jayhawks won their opener over McNeese state 42-24 last weekend.
Is it possible the four local teams could all make it to 2-0? I think they all stand a very good chance. Stay tuned!
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.