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Badgers vs. Illini preview with Illinois insider

We sit down with SB Nation’s Illinois Fighting Illini site for insight on Illinois vs. Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Badgers are set to face off against the Illinois Fighting Illini in Week 8, looking to bounce back from a tough loss last weekend to the Iowa Hawkeyes.

However, that's not the only tough loss on the Badgers’ minds, as Wisconsin is also looking to avenge their 34-10 defeat last season to the Illini, a game that saw then-head coach Paul Chryst fired merely 24 hours after.

Both teams have changed drastically since then, setting up an intriguing matchup in Champaign this weekend.

What’s the latest with the Illini and how can we expect Week 8 vs. the Badgers to go?

To get the latest scoop, we sat down with our SB Nation counterparts over at the Champaign Room, receiving some valuable insight from insider Stephen Cohn on Illinois.

Q: What impressed you from Illinois’s upset over Maryland last weekend?

A: It sounds cliche, but I was just most impressed by the fight left in this team. We didn’t think there was a ton of it left after a really disheartening loss to Nebraska where it seemed like the program was, once again, bottoming out. But to then hit the road and play that well in a place Illinois has literally never won was really impressive and something I don’t think most fans expected. Just a really complete game in all three phases, and, as a result, it was Maryland shooting itself in the foot with turnovers and penalties.

Q: What have you seen from QB Luke Altmeyer this year?

A: We’ve seen a QB who shows flashes of greatness, but also a guy who certainly hasn’t started a lot of football games in the last few years. Against some of the more stout defenses he’s faced — Penn State, Purdue, etc. — Altmyer hasn’t looked like the type of player Illinois needs in this position. The Illini have a lot of playmakers on the outside and in the backfield, they really just need a game manager. And, at times, Altmyer has been that dude, but most of the time, mostly due to the picks, he hasn’t been a great option. But his ability to extend plays with his legs – and the lack of any better option in the QB room – has left Illinois with no option except starting Altmyer this year.

Q: Defensively, how has Illinois adjusted without key members of their team from 2022?

A: To be frank, they haven’t. To lose three members of your secondary in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft is a helluva feat, and a lot of that should be credited to Lovie Smith (as well as Ryan Walters). The Illini had some studs on defense last year, and it was just as good as any defense we’ve seen from the Badgers over the past decade. But losing that much production has been really tough to recover from, even with Johnny Newton playing at an All-American-type level. There’s a lot of youth now in the secondary, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s allowed teams to gash them for big plays this season. I don’t expect that to be a problem with the Badgers though...

Q: Predictions for the game?

A: I just touched on it, but without Tanner Mordecai, I don’t know how Wisconsin moves the ball. Illinois should be able to do just enough on Homecoming and pull out the W. Let’s say 20-10.