I'll be honest: You can preview this Illinois-Wisconsin game in an elevator pitch. You want to be one of those weirdos who talks to people in the elevator? Here's this game in a sentence: Melvin Gordon takes on the 122nd-ranked rushing defense and the playcalling of his offensive coordinator in a game that will likely get the Badgers back on track.
But that's just a logline. If that's enough for you, thanks for stopping by. But if you want to see what's going to happen on Saturday, and because no one's going to let me post a preview this short, let's read on.
Illinois is likely going to start long-time backup and potential Irish stereotype Reilly O'Toole at quarterback after the leg injury to Wes Lunt. This is likely going to limit the Illini offense. That's not to say they don't have talented pieces in play, though. Mike Dudek a freshman wide receiver that has awards-winning potential. Geronimo Allison is 6'4 and if the Illini get some big plays going through the air, Allison will likely be the one who goes up and gets them.
We also know that running back Josh Ferguson is going to get the ball a lot. Ferguson was Illinois' leading rusher last season, and a 10-catch performance in a losing effort to Purdue last weekend has brought him back to another possible 50-catch season. He's a versatile back, but if the Badgers are healthy, they could well lock down most of what the Illini want to do.
But as you saw with the nickel schemes and Devin Gaulden, Derrick Tindal and Marcus Trotter going down vs. Northwestern, Wisconsin's defense is thrilled that there's another bye week coming quickly. Running two down linemen in any sort of situation is a bad time, and if they're forced to blitz to pass rush, it's gonna be a real bad time. Like, Dave Aranda's been secretly replaced by a headless horsemen because of the Freemason Illuminati AND YES THEY TOO HAVE MERGED bad.
Even so, this a home game against Illinois. And for a team that's, shall we say, having offensive issues like Wisconsin, the country's 115th-ranked defense -- and a defense allowing almost 6 yards per play -- should at least stop people from suggesting Andy Warhol, Andy Murray, the drummer from Fall Out Boy and Molly Ringwald's character from Pretty in Pink would be better Andys than our current offensive coordinator. I mean, safeties Zane Petty and rejected Will Forte character Taylor Barton are both averaging over nine tackles a game.
Not to talk out of school about what happens when you have a safety that's making a lot of tackles -- because let's remember that the Badgers' defense doesn't suck despite Michael Caputo's leading the team -- but when you add in the fact that linebacker Mason Monheim is getting over 10 tackles a game, you have a team with a defensive problem. The way Gordon is running right now, he could break the century mark ... three times.
The Badgers might need that, because rumors of a two-quarterback system are running rampant. If that news was any less popular, there would be a pun-based headline or an agreed-upon signal to Alex Jones and the folks at Infowars regarding the general disdain for this move. Forget the fact that you can barely trust Andy Ludwig to call a game with one quarterback; you still have a passing game that has one consistent receiver and a bunch of underused tight ends. If we're not going to let Tanner McEvoy get into space and make option plays, Joel Stave is the better fit. A defense that's allowing 61 percent of its passes to be completed through the air and 7.8 yards per attempt alone isn't going to show either one in his worst light.
There's also always the possibility that the number of times chucking it around the field might be countable on hands alone. The Badgers have Melvin Gordon. The Illini have a horrible run defense. The Badgers have Corey Clement. In the time between sentences, the Illini's run defense hasn't improved.
All in all, here's a chance to get healthy before the bye. Lord help the team if it breaks bad.