CAMPUS CHECK IN: Justin Jackson on the verge of Northwestern history

EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 07: Northwestern Wildcats running back Justin Jackson (21) runs with the ball in the 1st quarter during a college football game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Northwestern Wildcats on October 07, 2017, at Ryan Field in Evanston, IL. (Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

EVANSTON – It hasn’t been the start that many Northwestern had hoped for back in August, but there is one thing that was expected that is likely to happen this weekend.

Senior running back Justin Jackson is just 18 yards from breaking the Wildcats’ all-time record for career rushing yardage. With 18 yards on Saturday at Maryland at 2:30 PM, he’ll pass Damien Anderson for the lead which at the 4,485 yards.

So far this season he has 339 yards on 80 carries and had a good chance of breaking the record against a Terrapins team that’s allowing 161 yards per game on the ground this season.

Pat Fitzgerald, for one, can’t wait for the record to get broken from arguably one of the best players in his tenure as head coach.

“Amazing. Absoultuely spectacular from the standpoint of durability. Toughness, resolve. Anytime you start talking about those type of accomplishments over a career, it’s just absolutely spectacular,” said Fitzgerald of Jackson. “I’ve had the priviledge to coach it.”

ILLINOIS: A Shot To Break Through

CHAMPAIGN – Illinois is going to have a very rare distinction of Saturday – the role of favorites in a Big Ten contest.

Nothing like Rutgers coming to town when you’ve been struggling over the past month.

The Scarlet Knights come to Champaign with a 1-4 record and like the Illini have lost their first two games of the conference season. In fact, Rutgers hasn’t won a game in the Big Ten in almost two years and last year Lovie Smith got his first conference win against them on the road.

With the youngest team in FBS, Saturday is one of the chances that the Illini have to snag at least a conference win this season. Lovie understands that completely with his team and the one he’ll face Saturday.

“We’re two teams fighting for a win as much as anything. Both of us haven’t won as many games as we would like,” said Smith. “So, again, it’s one of those games that for us…great opportunity ahead for us. Need to get back on the winning track at home.”

NOTRE DAME: A Good Vibes Bye

SOUTH BEND – Brian Kelly has to be feeling much better about his team now than he was a month ago, when his Irish were 1-1 after a one-point loss to Georgia at home.

But four-straight wins has Notre Dame feeling a lot better as they head towards a stretch that could make them a College Football Playoff candidate or an also-ran. Of the Irish’ final six games of the year, five come against teams that are currently ranked in the AP Top 25, including their next contest at home against 13th-ranked USC.

Notre Dame has won four-straight games since the loss to the Bulldogs, including a victory over North Carolina last week without starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush. Before that, the Irish handled Miami of Ohio at home and preceeded that with a road domination of Michigan State – a victory that looks much better now after the Spartans’ upset of Michigan last week.

NORTHERN ILLINOIS: