In a conference race that appears to be wide open, the Illini face a pair of rivals just behind them in the Big Ten standings this weekend.
Illini Week in Review
The Illinois soccer team split its two home games last weekend, beating Iowa 2-1 on Friday night , before falling to Nebraska 3-2 on Sunday afternoon. Friday's win over Iowa was a physical affair, with the two teams combining for 34 fouls (21 by Iowa) and three yellow cards (two by Iowa). The Illini goals came from Janelle Flaws (10) and Allie Osoba (4), but the biggest play of the night was a save by freshman goalkeeper Claire Wheatley on a penalty kick attempt by Lana Bonekamper that preserved the Illini's 2-1 lead in the 71st minute. Flaws talked after the game  about her goal and how she actually does pay attention to some of the conference leaderboards.
The victory did come at a high cost, however, as Vanessa DiBernardo, Hope D'Addario and Christina Farrell all left the game early with injuries. DiBernardo suffered a knee sprain and missed Sunday's Nebraska game. D'Addario fractured her collarbone, and is likely out for the season. Farrell sustained a hip pointer, and despite being in pain, played all 90 minutes against the Cornhuskers on Sunday. DiBernardo's status for this weekend at Purdue and Indiana is questionable.
Sunday was the Illini's annual Soccerfest event at Illinois Soccer Stadium, and a crowd of 1526 saw a very entertaining game between the Illini and Nebraska. Despite being without DiBernardo, the offense was able to put up a pair of goals from Big Ten co-leader Janelle Flaws, but defensive miscues proved to be the difference. The Cornhuskers got on the board in the first half after pressure forced an Illini turnover in their defensive end. The Huskers doubled their lead in the first minute of the second half on a goal from Mayme Conroy. Flaws' two goals would tie the match at two within the next eight minutes, but Conroy scored the game-winner in the 61st minute off a cross as she was unmarked in the box and headed the ball into the right side of the net. That 3-2 score would be the final . Janet Rayfield talked about the defensive lapses  after the game.
The weekend split left Illinois in a tie for 4th place in the Big Ten at 1-1-1, and a 6-3-2 record overall.
Big Ten Week in Review
Illinois 2 Iowa 1
Nebraska 3 Illinois 2
Team of the Week: Nebraska. With apologies to Penn State, who outscored their opponents 10-2 last week, the Huskers were able to pick up a pair of road wins to stay tied atop the conference. Those wins signal that Nebraska may be poised to make its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2005.
Team of the Weak: Northwestern. After taking Penn State to the brink in their league opener the previous week, the Wildcats were hoping to pick up at least one win at home. Instead, a pair of one-goal losses has Northwestern along at the bottom of the Big Ten standings with an 0-3 record.
Big Ten Standings
Created with the HTML Table Generator 
To the Polls
Short of time, so just linking them this week without comment.
NSCAA Top 25 
Top Drawer Top 25 
Soccer Times Top 25 
What's On Tap
Well, week one of my predictions got off to a great start on Thursday and Friday, when I went 4-1-1. Then, Sunday happened. Road teams went 5-1, which meant I went just 3-3. The result was a pretty meh 7-4-1 opening weekend of picks. We'll try to do better this week. My picks to win are in bold.
Michigan at Michigan State. Sparty showed some life last Friday, knocking off Minnesota 3-0...the same Gopher squad that beat Michigan on Sunday. But my guess is that the Wolverines will be a very angry team heading to East Lansing.
Iowa at Nebraska. The biggest change in John Walker's team this season is the defense. No more keeper playing 40 yards off her line, which means fewer cheap goals allowed. With the firepower the Huskers have on offense, that's made a big difference.
Illinois at Purdue. Picking against history a bit with this one, as the Illini have never won in West Lafayette. They did play the Boilermakers to a draw here last season. One thing I don't know yet when making this pick: the status of Vanessa DiBernardo.
Northwestern at Indiana. Amy Berbary's team really needs a win here after dropping a pair of games on the road last weekend. The Wildcats are still looking for win number one in the league.
Ohio State at Minnesota. Should be a really good matchup here. I'll pick the Gophers, who are always tough at home, over a young Ohio State squad making its first Big Ten road trip of the season.
Penn State at Wisconsin. The Badgers have played Penn State very tough since Paula Wilkins took over the helm in Madison. I'll pick Wisconsin to make the top of the Big Ten standings VERY interesting.
Illinois at Indiana. This one really looks to be a tossup. I'll go with the Illini after Indiana gave up seven goals last weekend in a pair of losses.
Penn State at Minnesota. Hard for me to see Penn State losing both games on the weekend. The tricky thing is trying to decide which one they could lose.
Ohio State at Wisconsin. Another very good matchup in Madison. Almost went with OSU with the Badgers having a possible hangover after playing Penn State on Friday. But not quite.
Northwestern at Purdue. It wouldn't shock me to the Wildcats pick up an upset against a very erratic Purdue team, but I'm going with the odds.
Michigan State at Iowa. Here's one the Hawkeyes have to win if they have NCAA Tournament hopes.
(Late Addition) MIchigan at Nebraska. If the Huskers pull this one off, I think it's fair to label them as Big Ten title contenders. Nebraska has now won all four of their Big Ten games by a single goal. The Wolverines have also played tight Big Ten matches, with all decided by a goal or less. I usually go with the home team in a game that's this close on paper, but my gut tells me Michigan has the edge. Really, I think you can flip a coin here.
On the Air
Tim Ditman and I are making the trip to Bloomington on Sunday to broadcast the Illini's game at Indiana. I always enjoy broadcasting from Armstrong Stadium. We take the air at 10:50am for an 11am game start. We'll talk to you then. Thanks for reading.