Fifth Quarter Consensus: Badgers get by Huskies in Chicago

The Predictions

Adam Hoge (+33): Wisconsin 38, Northern Illinois 24

Sam Zastrow (+33): Wisconsin 47, Northern Illinois 32

John Veldhuis (+37): Wisconsin 38, Northern Illinois 24

Louis Bien (+39): Wisconsin 41, Northern Illinois 20

Chuck Schwartz (+44): Wisconsin 31, Northern Illinois 17

Jake Harris (+46): Wisconsin 45, Northern Illinois 20

Phil Mitten (+47): Wisconsin 38, Northern Illinois 27

Adam Tupitza (+47): Wisconsin 45, Northern Illinois 28

The Reasoning:

Wisconsin (2-0) will face by far its toughest test of the young season when it travels to Chicago to take on Northern Illinois (1-1) at Soldier Field. It is the first time the Badgers will step outside the comfort of Camp Randall Stadium in 2011 and the Huskies are the first team UW will face that has actually won another game.

 

The good news for Wisconsin is that it should be able to move the ball effectively against the NIU defense. It is safe to say that allowing an average of 35.5 points per game is not what former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren had in mind when he took the head coaching job in DeKalb.

Kansas gashed the Huskies' front seven last week to the tune of 253 rushing yards. Look for Badger running backs Montee Ball and James White to run for some big gains on first and second down. That should help set up manageable third down situations for quarterback Russell Wilson. The Huskies allowed the Jayhawks to convert 13 of 18 third down chances.

Shutting out Oregon State was an encouraging sign for the Badgers' defense last week, though they face a much stiffer test this weekend in Chicago. Senior quarterback Chandler Harnish is a difference maker for Northern Illinois. He has completed 75 percent of his passes through two games for 510 yards and seven touchdowns with just one interception. 

Meanwhile, Wisconsin will be adjusting to life without starting cornerback Devin Smith, who will redshirt after a season-ending foot injury. Marcus Cromartie filled in nicely against the Beavers and was the most consistent defensive back throughout fall camp. Now he will get a chance to show what he's made of on an every-down basis.

Keep an eye on the kicking game this week as well. Freshman kicker Kyle French has only attempted one field goal for Wisconsin this season, in part because of the Badgers' highly efficient offense. In a close game, though, French could be put in a pressure situation in a potentially windy stadium that is not known to treat inexperienced kickers nicely.

Who has the edge?

Offense: Push - Harnish is that good.

Defense: Wisconsin

Special Teams: Wisconsin

Coaching: Wisconsin

Intangibles: Northern Illinois

Fun Facts

Wisconsin is one of just four teams in the country that have yet to turn the ball over this season.

Northern Illinois has won 11 of its last 13 games dating back to 2010. None of its opponents during that span have been ranked, however.

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