The Wisconsin Badgers (1-3 overall, 0-2 Big Ten) travel to play the Illinois Fighting Illini (2-4 overall, 1-2 Big Ten) for UW’s first true road test of the season. Despite being winless in conference, the Badgers haven’t played any West Division opponents yet but now play six of their final eight games against their familiar divisional rivals.
Illinois opened the season by beating the (I hate to say it, but it’s true) much improved Nebraska Cornhuskers, but since then have struggled, only picking up one more win against Charlotte last week. You may not have heard about this, but the Illini have a new head coach this year...
BERT IS BACK, BABY!
This will add some intrigue to a matchup that might’ve been completely devoid of it otherwise. We’ll be keeping a close eye on how banged up QB1 Graham Mertz looks throughout the week to see if he’s able to play on Saturday or if backup Chase Wolf will get the start. Leading up to the game, we’ll also keep you posted about injuries to TE Jake Ferguson and Jack Eschenbach as well as CB Semar Melvin.
UPDATE, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021: Paul Chryst said that both Mertz and Ferguson participated in practice all week, so they should be available. We’ll see what the pregame availability report says though.
How to watch/listen
TV: BTN, 2:30 p.m. CT, Mark Followill, Matt Millen, Elise Menaker
Streaming: FOX Sports App
Stadium: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.
Weather: Champaign, Ill. (looks like a hot, partly cloudy afternoon)
Line: Wisconsin -11
Fun facts (according to the media guides)
- Since the Big Ten went to its current divisional format in 2014, the Badgers have posted a 32-8 (.800) record vs. its fellow members of the West Division, including a 6-1 mark vs. Illinois.
- Wisconsin has won 10 of its last 11 meetings with the Fighting Illini, dating to 2008. Since 2003, the Badgers have left Memorial Stadium with a win in six of their last eight trips to Champaign.
- This game is the 111th Homecoming in Illinois history. Illinois boasts being one of the first universities to celebrate Homecoming, a tradition on almost every college campus. It was conceived in 1909 by students C.F. Williams and W. Elmer Ekblaw, members of the Shield and Trident senior society.
- You remember the most recent loss. ::siiiiiiiiigh::
- Overall in the series, Wisconsin leads, 43-37-7.
- Wisconsin’s nine straight wins over Illinois from 2008 to 2018 marked the longest win streak by either team in the history of the series.
- Wisconsin and Illinois played in the final tie game in FBS history, closing the 1995 season with a 3-3 draw on Nov. 25 in Madison. Overtime was introduced the following season.
- This may come as a surprise to you, but...Illinois head coach Bret Bielema was head coach at Wisconsin from 2006-12, compiling a 68-24 (.739) record and guiding UW to three Big Ten titles (2010, 2011, 2012).
- According to our pal Dave Heller, the last time the Badgers faced a former head coach was in 1895. Wisconsin won that game 32-4, so watch your ass Illinois!
Saturday will mark the first time the #Badgers have faced a former Wisconsin head coach since Oct. 5, 1895 when Herb Alward and Armour Institute lost to UW 32-4. Alward coached Wisconsin in 1891 (3-1-1).— Dave Heller (@dave_heller) October 8, 2021
- Illinois’ coaching staff features a pair of UW graduates in defensive line coach Terrance Jamison and defensive backs coach Aaron Henry, who was part of the Badgers’ Big Ten title teams in 2010 and 2011.
- OL coach Joe Rudolph and ILB coach Bob Bostad both coached at UW when Bielema was there and special teams analyst Taylor Melhaff and TE coach Mickey Turner were both players under Bielema. Defensive line coach Ross Kolodziej served as a UW graduate assistant in 2012, Bielema’s final season in Madison.
- The Illinois staff features three other coaches who spent time on staff at Wisconsin: linebackers coach Andy Buh, outside linebackers coach Kevin Kane and offensive line coach Bart Miller. Illinois football chief of staff Mark Taurisani previously served as UW’s director of football operations.
- Wisconsin senior ILB Mike Maskalunas and Illinois senior TE Michael Marchese were high school teammates at Adlai E. Stevenson in Lincolnshire, Ill.
- Wisconsin junior TE Jack Eschenbach and Illinois redshirt freshman LS Aidan Hall and junior LB Alec McEachern were prep teammates at Benet Academy in Lisle, Ill.
- Wisconsin senior OLB Izayah Green-May and Illinois senior DB Kendall Smith were prep teammates at Bolingbrook (Ill.) High School.
- Illinois redshirt freshman TE Mike Cerniglia Jr. is a Madison native and the son of former Wisconsin men’s hockey player and UW Athletics staffer Mike Cerniglia and former Wisconsin volleyball player Aleah (Coughlin) Cerniglia.
- Basically...there are a lot of connections between these two football programs.
- Wisconsin’s defense has allowed only 26 plays of 10 or more yards this season, the fewest of any FBS team. On the ground, the Badgers have allowed just one (1) rushing play of 10-plus yards.
- Senior CB Faion Hicks is averaging 2.0 passes defended (breakups plus interceptions) per game, matching Memphis CB Greg Rubin for the second-best rate of any FBS player this season. East Carolina CB Ja’Quan McMillian (3.2) leads the nation.
- The Badgers lead the Big Ten and rank fourth in the country in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert on just 27.1% of their third-down tries.
- In just two games, ILB Leo Chenal has recorded 20 tackles to rank second on the team.
- TE Jake Ferguson’s 38 straight games with a catch matches the school record set by WR Lee Evans, who caught a pass in 38 consecutive games between 1999 and 2003.
- Illinois LB Jake Hansen has more career forced fumbles (12) than any other active player in the nation.
- Illinois OLB Owen Carney Jr. has 4.5 sacks in his last three games.
- Kerby Joseph is the only player in the nation with two-plus interceptions and two-plus fumble recoveries. He has either an interception or a fumble recovery in four straight games.
- Last weekend against Charlotte, Chase Brown ran for 257 yards the fourth-most in a single game in program history.
- Illinois is one of five FBS teams to have two different players rush for over 150 yards in a game this season (Georgia Southern, Michigan, Minnesota, Tulsa).
- The Badgers are undefeated this season (1-0) when FOX’s Big Noon Saturday is not in attendance. This week the traveling pre-game show is at Iowa/Penn State sooooooo, feeling pretty good about this one for the ol’ Badgers.