Week 7: Illinois at Wisconsin

    Illinois (2-4) at Wisconsin (4-2) Oct. 11, 12:00 ESPN2 Here’s The Deal: Fans of big-time quarterback play this is … this is really not for you. Illinois

    October 10, 2014

    Illinois (2-4) at Wisconsin (4-2) Oct. 11, 12:00 ESPN2

    Here’s The Deal: Fans of big-time quarterback play this is … this is really not for you. Illinois lost its star quarterback Wes Lunt to a broken leg, and Wisconsin lost to Northwestern because its quarterbacks couldn’t stop throwing the ball to Godwin Igwebuike. This is still a good Badger team defensively, and Melvin Gordon is running like he’s about to get paid a ton of money, but the passing game is miserable. Wisconsin lost to LSU because it couldn’t throw a forward pass, and the Northwestern gaffe – with the way Gordon was running – was inexcusable. With home games against Illinois and Maryland, and with an easy schedule the rest of the way – outside of the home date with Nebraska – there’s still time to get to the Big Ten championship. But Northwestern was supposed to be an easy part of the puzzle, too.

    If the Tim Beckman era isn’t over at Illinois, it’s not in good shape. Losing on the road to Washington and Nebraska isn’t bad, but getting whacked at home by Purdue is about as bad as it gets. Certain to be the underdog in every game the rest of the way, it’s going to take a special effort just to get an extra win or two to get in the bowl hunt. To beat a Badger team looking to rebound will take a minor miracle, but with the way Wisconsin throws the ball, anything is possible.

    Why Illinois Might Win: By the way, the Wisconsin passing game is bad. It’s not just the receivers – there aren’t any playing at a high enough level to make anyone worry – it’s the quarterbacks with Tanner McEvoy bad and Joel Stave worse. The stats would be at a whole other level of horrific if it wasn’t for the Western Illinois game, throwing just three touchdown passes against everyone else along with four last week against NU and two to LSU. The Illinois secondary has been a major issue – that’s not a concern this week.

    Why Wisconsin Might Win: The Badgers might not have to throw a single pass to win. Illinois has allowed 200 rushing yards or more in four of the six games so far, and hasn’t even been close over the last two weeks against Nebraska and Purdue giving up 807 yards and nine touchdowns. Wisconsin might have its problems, but the running game still works, and Gordon is still running like his hair is on fire. Everything comes from the ground attack – no, the Badgers can’t throw, but they can when the receivers are wide open. They’ll be wide open with the safeties having to cheat up to make stops.

    Who To Watch Out For: So who’s actually going to play quarterback for these two? Joel Stave will get the nod over McEvoy, and even though he’s still trying to get back after to form after his throwing motion yips, and even though he threw one of the worst interceptions possible in the end zone last week against the Wildcats, he provided more experience and more of a passing spark. Riley O’Toole is a veteran backup who’ll get his shot for the Illini, after stepping in and completing 9-of-14 passes for 118 yards and a pick against Purdue. 5-of-5 last year in the blowout loss to the Badgers, he won’t be fazed by the big game atmosphere, but he has to produce to offset a ground game that’s about to get stuffed.

    What’s Going To Happen: Wisconsin will finally get off to a hot start, and everything will steamroll from there. This will finally start to look like the Badger team everyone has been waiting for – but that’s because it’s playing Illinois.

    Prediction: Wisconsin 44 … Illinois 10
    Line: Wisconsin -26 o/u: 58.5
    Must Watch Factor: 5: Last Week Tonight – 1: Bad Judge … 2


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