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Betting Preview: Illinois vs. Wisconsin

Can the Badgers bounce back and cover vs. the Illini?

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Wisconsin v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Spread and total are based on 8 a.m. odds from The Action Network.

So, last week happened.

The Wisconsin Badgers come into Saturday’s contest off of a terrible loss on the road at Michigan. They were dominated on all sides of the football, and it showed in the final score. While the loss killed any College Football Playoff hopes, the Badgers can still make a run for the Big Ten Championship Game. It starts with taking care of an inferior opponent like the Illinois Fighting Illini today.

Obviously, Wisconsin was unable to cover last weekend when catching 10 points for what became a 38–13 drubbing. This week, the Badgers return home as heavy favorites against the Illini. The spread for this contest opened as 25.5 in favor of Wisconsin and has slowly been bet down to -24 over the course of the week. The total for Saturday’s game opened at 54.5 and has been bet up consistently with 53 percent of the public money coming in on the over, which now sits at 56.

Wisconsin has struggled ATS so far this season, sitting 1–5. To go along with that, the Badgers have faced a spread of 17 points or more in four contests to start the season and have not covered any of them. Wisconsin has been no stranger to big spreads, but it’s still yet to hit the mark. Can the Badgers get off the mat and do it this week? Here are some notable trends to help you decide.

  • Wisconsin is 9–1 SU over its last 10 games against Illinois, but only 5–5 ATS.
  • Wisconsin is 2–7 ATS when favored by 17 points or more in its last nine games.
  • Wisconsin is 4–2 ATS when playing Illinois.
  • Wisconsin is 7–1 ATS after a straight-up loss during the Paul Chryst era.
  • Wisconsin is 0–5 ATS in its last five home games.
  • Illinois is 7–14 ATS in its last 21 games.
  • Illinois is 2–4 ATS in its last six games at Wisconsin.
  • The total has gone over in six of Illinois’s last eight road games.
  • Illinois is 12–18 ATS in the Lovie Smith era.

We touched on this after the last Badgers’ loss to BYU, but one notable trend above is the their ability to bounce back in these spots. Since Chryst took over at Wisconsin, the Badgers are 7–1 ATS the week after a loss. It’s clear that they have the ability to refocus and take care of business against their next opponent. While Chryst probably has no care over whether the Badgers cover or not, his coaching method clearly has a direct effect on getting his guys ready and bettors always seem to be rewarded for it.

The Pick: Wisconsin (-24)

I’ve had a large amount of success in my college football betting picks so far this season, but the Badgers have been my Achilles heel to this point; my record sits at 2–4 when picking Wisconsin games. However, I like the trend above and in the one win the Badgers have against the spread this season, it came in the same spot. While the spread was much smaller, it still proved to me that Wisconsin has the ability to fine-tune and fix things in these spots, so i’m laying the points with the Badgers. They have to figure this thing out eventually.

Jonathan Taylor was unable to really go last year against Illinois, and he should be able to take advantage of the Illinois run defense that is allowing almost 200 yards per game. If the defense can get some stops, Wisconsin should be able to cover the large spread. I also believe Illinois is getting somewhat overvalued due to its 3–3 record. When you look at its wins, you notice that two were against teams in the bottom tier of the NCAA rankings and one is a 2–4 FCS school in Western Illinois.


While Wisconsin has struggled ATS, the over play has been beneficial for bettors on the Badgers; they are 4–2 so far. Up until last week, the Badgers have been able to put up points consistently. Illinois has shown some strength on the offensive side of the ball as well, especially in the running game where they average 5.22 yards per carry. Neither team has passed the ball relatively well, but that hasn’t seemed to matter in the totals. With two teams running the ball effectively the clock will be the enemy to hit the over, but I think Wisconsin will try to throw more to get Alex Hornibrook some confidence back, and the defense is still very banged-up to where 56 points should be attainable.