5th Quarter Consensus: Wisconsin eyeing first road win

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Will the Badgers finally notch a victory on the road? Our staff believes their time has come.

The Predictions

Phil Mitten (6-0, +63): Wisconsin 37, Illinois 17

Jake Harris (6-0, +76): Wisconsin 35, Illinois 21

Andrew Rosin (5-1, +70): Wisconsin 35, Illinois 14

Jake Kocorowski (5-1, +74): Wisconsin 38, Illinois 17

Mike Fiammetta (5-1, +78): Wisconsin 38, Illinois 24

Andy Johnson (5-1, +95): Wisconsin 43, Illinois 14

Louis Bien (5-1, +105): Wisconsin 42, Illinois 24

The Reasoning

Wisconsin is hoping the third time is the charm. After watching the officials rob them of a chance to beat Arizona State in Tempe and seeing their comeback attempt against Ohio State fall just short in Columbus, the Badgers once again take to the road to face Illinois in a night game in Champaign.

While UW should be brimming with confidence after dismantling then-No. 19 Northwestern 35-6 on homecoming last week, the Fighting Illini return home with their tails between their legs after an ugly 39-19 loss at Nebraska, their 15th straight Big Ten defeat.

Illinois, led by second-year head coach Tim Beckman, is capable of putting up points. In each of the team's three wins this season, the Illini have scored at least 42 points. Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is in his fourth year as a starter and has fought through plenty of adversity to this point. He has posted his highest completion percentage of the year in 2013, connecting on 64.2 percent of his passes.

Scheelhaase has become less of a running threat as his career has progressed; his yards per carry have decreased every season since 2010. He has scored just one touchdown on the ground this year. Scheelhaase has thrown an interception in every game but one this season, so expect freshman cornerback Sojourn Shelton and the opportunistic Badgers secondary to force a turnover when Scheelhaase drops back to throw.

Sophomore Josh Ferguson leads the Illini with 310 rushing yards and a 6.3-yard average per carry this season, but junior Donovonn Young gets the bulk of the work. Illinois ranks just 60th in the nation in rushing for 175.8 yards per game despite facing three overmatched opponents early. Meanwhile, the stingy Wisconsin defense ranks 10th in the country in stopping the run, so look for Scheelhaase to try and make plays through the air to senior wideout Ryan Lankford.

UW running backs James White and Melvin Gordon have to be licking their chops as they prepare to face a UI defense that struggles against the ground game. Illinois ranks second-to-last in the Big Ten in giving up nearly 200 rushing yards per game. The Illini most recently allowed Nebraska to rush for 335 yards two weeks ago.

The Badgers average nearly 300 yards rushing per game and will look to wear out Illinois' defense early and often. The only saving grace for the Illini is that they have had two weeks to rest after a bye last Saturday. Still, that likely will not be enough to slow down Wisconsin's offense, particularly if wide receiver Jared Abbrederis returns from a head injury for UW as expected.

While the Badgers offense has settled into a rhythm and the defense continues to look more comfortable in new head coach Gary Andersen's 3-4 scheme, the team's kicking situation has turned into something of a joke. Junior Kyle French was benched in the middle of last week's game against Northwestern and recently posted on his Facebook page that he would be foregoing his senior season of football.

That opens the door for freshman Jack Russell to handle field goals, while freshman Andrew Endicott will continue to kick off for the Badgers. But that's not all -- Andersen also said this week that star linebacker Chris Borland would attempt field goals greater than 40 yards.

The thousands of Wisconsin fans making the trip to Champaign this weekend can only hope Borland gets that chance. Otherwise, assuming Wisconsin comes to play, there may not be much worth watching by the middle of the third quarter.

Who has the edge?

Offense: Wisconsin

Defense: Wisconsin

Special teams: Illinois

Coaching: Wisconsin

Intangibles: Wisconsin

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