Illinois comes to Camp Randall Stadium on Friday night. Let’s dig into their 2019 stats and see how the Fighting Illini did on both sides of the ball.
Total Plays of 10+ Yards Or More
Jonathan Taylor had 61 rushes of at least 10 yards last year. That’s almost as much as all of Illinois had - and they got that production from two players that have exhausted their eligibility. Brandon Peters can still throw it to Josh Imatorbhebhe, Donny Navarro, Ricky Smalling and Daniel Barker, who all had at least 10 catches of 10 yards. Imtorbhebhe is the deep threat, averaging almost 20 yards a catch.
Their issues are just staying on the field.
Offense - Down and Distance
|3rd Down, 1-3 To Go||43||70||30||46|
|3rd Down, 4-6 To Go||46||53||19||22|
|3rd Down, 7-9 To Go||40||39||9||15|
|3rd Down, 10+ To Go||55||27||4||6|
Wisconsin played one more game than the bowl-participating Illinois Fighting Illini. Wisconsin had one hundred more first downs. Illinois had major issues getting behind the chains, seeing a 3rd and 10+ more often than any grouping, while Wisconsin was able to shorter yardage distances regularly. Plus, their fourth down conversion rate left a lot to be desired, wiping out their +10 turnover advantage through their turnovers on downs.
Defensive Breakdowns of 10+ Yards or More
Defensively, Wisconsin got victimized by 10+ and 20+ yard plays at an average rate, but tackled opponents before they went for at least 30 yards regularly. Illinois could not keep opponents from breaking long plays.
Defense - Down and Distance
|3rd Down, 1-3 To Go||50||30||33||14|
|3rd Down, 4-6 To Go||51||43||16||13|
|3rd Down, 7-9 To Go||43||36||10||12|
|3rd Down, 10+ To Go||48||68||9||7|
If you didn’t move the chains on first or second down, the Illini were fine, holding opponents to a fine 37% conversion rate. The Badgers? Best in the nation at 27%, thanks for asking.
SO WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED LAST YEAR
In order of nuance...
- -2 on the turnover margin. That margin was at even before Wisconsin’s final two possessions of the game.
- Wisconsin had four drives lasting longer than 50 yards & 10+ snaps. They resulted, in order: touchdown, a made 24 yard field goal, a missed 37 yard field goal and a made 20 yard field goal.
- Illinois had four drives lasting longer than 30 yards. They resulted, in order: touchdown, touchdown, touchdown and a made 39 yard field goal. That field goal was a game-ending drive where they basically used three snaps to drain timeouts when in range, and it was their only drive over six plays.
The difference was Illinois used their handful of big plays to get seven points instead of three. Every other time they had possession, they were uninterested in keeping it - eight drives, 99 total yards. Even being gifted a touchdown following a Illinois fumbled on their own 15 couldn’t make up for the simple math of 7 > 3 + 3.
Last season, there were two road games to stadiums I hadn’t been to yet - Memorial Stadium (not the one in Lincoln or Bloomington, the Champaign-Urbana one) and Ohio Stadium. They’re both drive-able, but being on consecutive weekends meant I’d drive the ~4 hours through the most mind-numbing parts of Illinois and fly to Columbus.
The Friday I’m about to start heading to Champaign, the “cold” I had been fighting all week turned again, and I scheduled an appointment for the clinic. If that didn’t underscore the fact I was legitimately sick, I only had three beers all weekend.
Tuesday afternoon, I go to the clinic and get checked out. I’m sure I impressed the doctor with my fandom when I, dead tired, hoarsely asked “Think I’ll be able to fly to Columbus?” After she reviewed my lab work, her voicemail said “Cancel your plans, you have mono.”
While I laid on my couch, unable to regulate my body temperature as the rains and Buckeyes came down hard on the Badgers that following weekend, I was able to take a little solace in the fact that Ohio State’s back on the schedule in two years.