Wisconsin (7–0, 4–0 Big Ten) comes off a 38–13 homecoming win at home against the Maryland Terrapins. The Badgers’ defense held the Terps to only 268 total yards, while true freshman running back Jonathan Taylor rushed for 126 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown.
Illinois (2–5, 0–4) lost to P.J. Fleck’s Minnesota squad up in the Twin Cities 24–17 last Saturday. Lovie Smith’s squad is young, with 14 true freshman who have started so far this year—leading the nation. There are some growing pains, as this team is among the worst in many offensive and defensive categories in the conference.
When and where is the game?
Wisconsin and Illinois will kick off at 11 a.m. CT at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill.
How can I watch?
The game will be broadcast on ESPN with Mike Patrick assigned to play-by-play duties, Tommy Tuberville as the analyst, and Paul Carcaterra reporting from the sideline.
How can I stream the game online?
How can I listen to it on the radio?
On the Badgers Sports Network, where you’ll find the usual team of Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas, and Patrick Herb. On satellite radio, you’ll find the broadcast on Sirius 134/XM 196. Head to BadgerSportsNetwork.com to find it. You can also listen on iHeartRadio (iOS/Android/online) by searching “WIBA.”
Who and what to watch during the game
Taylor and Wisconsin’s rushing attack vs. Illinois’s defense
Illinois is dead last in the Big Ten in rushing defense, allowing almost 211 yards per game. That includes the past two contests where both Rutgers and Minnesota gained 274 and 290 yards, respectively (though the Illini only gave up 102 and 47 yards passing, respectively, in both losses). Three of their seven games have resulted in an opponent rushing for over 274 yards, with Iowa also gaining over 190 yards in that contest.
Wisconsin, on the other hand, leads the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (256.9) and boasts the true freshman Taylor, who leads the conference in rushing yards per game (158.9) and rushing touchdowns (11).
The Badgers also lead the conference and are No. 2 in the nation in third =0down conversions (55.2 percent), while the Illini are second-worst in the Big Ten in allowing opponents to move the chains on that down (48 percent).
This is not a good recipe here for Smith’s team.
Illinois has forced 13 fumbles this season, which leads the nation in per-game average and is tied for No. 1 overall. Taylor has lost three fumbles this year, including one each in the past two games.
However, Wisconsin should be able to move the ball on the ground at will. If Illinois sells out against the run, quarterback Alex Hornibrook should have an opportunity to make some plays through the air against an Illini defense that’s 13th in the Big Ten in pass defense efficiency (133.9).
Wisconsin’s front seven against Illinois’s offensive line
Three true freshman, one redshirt freshman, and a junior comprise Illinois’s offensive line. The Illini have averaged 374 yards per game in their last three contests, though they are still second-to-last in the conference in total yards and last in rushing offense (118.7 yards per game).
Wisconsin is fifth in the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 88 yards per game. The Badgers should swallow up any threat on the ground, including true freshman quarterback Cam Thomas, who rushed for 79 yards on 10 carries last week against Minnesota.
That should allow Jim Leonhard’s defense to attack Thomas and Jeff George, Jr., on passing downs. Wisconsin averages over three sacks per contest through seven games, while Illinois’s offense surrenders 2.6 per game (11th in the conference).
Though the Illini average 194.3 yards per game through the air, they rank 13th in the Big Ten in pass efficiency (106.1).
Again, this should not be a good day for Illinois football, and if there’s any glimmer of hope against Wisconsin, then that would indicate more concerns about UW heading into the last third of its regular season.
Jake Kocorowski: Wisconsin 41, Illinois 3
Owen Riese: Wisconsin 45, Illinois 14
Kevin O’Connell: Wisconsin 41, Illinois 3
Drew Hamm: Wisconsin 38, Illinois 10, Lovie Smith 2 (shots of him looking confused on the sideline like he just woke from a coma)
Ryan Mellenthin: Wisconsin 38, Illinois 10
Andrew Rosin: Wisconsin 34, Illinois 9
On Thursday, we asked for some of your bold predictions for this game. Quick one from me: Redshirt freshman Garrett Groshek will run for over 125 yards after Taylor and Bradrick Shaw go for over 200 and 100, respectively.
Here’s what you, our readers, predicted:
BOLD PREDICTION: Lovie Smith fired at halftime.— Bart T rvik (@totally_t_bomb) October 26, 2017
Illini win the turnover battle 3-1 but still lose by 35...— Ryan Andersen (@baraboo99) October 26, 2017
Illinois scores at some point— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) October 26, 2017
Taylor doesn’t fumble and Hornibrook has a turnover free game.— Rob Fleissner (@rfleis01) October 26, 2017
Lots of rushing predictions:
Jon Taylor runs for 300 plus.— Ross Bukouricz (@rossbukouricz) October 26, 2017
Taylor and Shaw over 100, Groshek gets 75. Hornibrook only throws 12 times. Badgers win, 45-7.— Bill Goman (@WibadgerfanBill) October 26, 2017
Ibrahim has 125+ yards total offense— Luke Mueller (@Luke_Mueller24) October 27, 2017
We got some Jack Coan predictions here:
Coan will get in & have an 11 play drive that has an 8 yd run out of pressure & ends with a TD pass that will turn the fan base upside down— Christopher Baldock (@cjbaldock) October 26, 2017
Jack Coan in by the middle of the third quarter, Badgers by 50+— Teeth (@jimwithjam) October 26, 2017
Chryst makes this the AJ Taylor experiment game and he gets like 8 touches including a couple jet sweeps— Michael Rose (@THEMichaelRose) October 26, 2017
Illinois will not possess the football in Wisconsin territory— #Galvinized (@John__Galvin) October 26, 2017
Here’s a surprise one:
Badgers down at the half— Justin Wallace (@badgerstyle1) October 26, 2017
And quite possibly, maybe the biggest, boldest take of them all:
Jonathan Taylor will quit football to join Tim Allen & Co. in Netflix's new HOME IMPROVEMENT sequel.— RossWBoo (@RossWB) October 26, 2017