Wisconsin vs Illinois Preview

Wisconsin vs Illinois
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Wisconsin vs Illinois Game Preview

What: Wisconsin vs Illinois

When: Saturday, October 9th, 2:30 pm

Network: BTN

The second weekend of October brings together one team that has double the amount of wins this season compared to their opponent. That of course, would be the Illinois Fighting Illini with two, compared to the Wisconsin Badgers, with one.

Just as everyone expected.

To say the least, as the teams meet in Champaign this weekend, Paul Chryst’s Badgers have been one of the signatures of an unpredictable start to the season. They face an Illini squad in a bit of a rebuild under new head coach, and former Wisconsin head coach, Bret Bielema. Bielema and Chryst combine for 14 of the 16 seasons coached at Camp Randall Stadium in the post-Barry Alvarez era. Chryst also served as Bielema’s offensive coordinator for several seasons until 2011. Both come into today looking to turn the tide. Bielema, to add another brick in the program building process at Illinois. Chryst, to turn the tide in what is turning into a catastrophic season for the Badgers given their expectations.

How They Got Here

The Fighting Illini come into this game sporting a 2-4 record. An impressive week zero victory vs Nebraska with the national spotlight provided maybe a boost in expectations that were unfit. Following a flurry of close losses, they’ve regained course towards the bottom of the Big Ten. This is the first year under Bielema, so expectations are low, but optimism is high and it’ll only improve with a victory over the Badgers.

Wisconsin. Where do you begin? They were battered by the Michigan Wolverines this past Saturday. The Wolverines were better in every facet and controlled the entire game. The 38-17 blowout at home was no fluke, and only exposed the alarming issues this team has, particularly offensively. Through the first four games, the sample size is clear that indicates this is not a typical Badger offensive line. They’ve been dominated physically and outclassed on all fronts on the offensive side of the ball. Coming into the game 1-3 is not ideal, but Chryst and co must regroup if they look to still play a role in the Big Ten this season. Struggling starting quarterback Graham Mertz may not be available, so others will have to step up in his place.

What To Watch For

Illinois

The bread and butter of the Bielima’s offense is most certainly the run game. Spearheading the attack are duo Josh McCray and Chase Brown, who have combined for over 700 yards and four touchdowns. Unfortunately for the Illinois offense, the Badgers specialize in stopping the run, which will force them to the air. That being said, the Fighting Illini’s starting quarterback, Brandon Peters, has missed a lot of time already with injury. When healthy, he’s been largely inefficient. If Illinois wants to do anything offensively in this game, they will have to establish some sort of control up front.

Wisconsin

The Badgers most certainly will be looking to right the ship here. They are the better team, but their confidence is low. Expect the team to continue to ride the defense led by Jack Sanborn and Nick Herbig. The duo, particularly Herbig, was held largely in check against Michigan. What Wisconsin must do better to make life easier on them is control what they can do, and that would be run the football. From the time of possession to turnover margin, those are traditionally Badger strengths. This year, however, Bucky finds themselves dead last in turnover margin. Want to find out why they’re 1-3 rather than 3-1 or perhaps 4-0? That may be your reason.

Concluding Remarks

The key to Wisconsin turning their season around starts with them taking care of the ball. The defense is good enough to win them 90% of games they’re in, but the offense will continue to hold them back with turnovers, and losing the battle at the line of scrimmage. Better late than never to begin changing that. Look for the Badgers to get back on track in the Bielema Bowl.

Score Prediction: Wisconsin 23 Illinois 10

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