Wisconsin vs. Illinois prediction and game preview. The Badgers look to stay atop the Big Ten West when it faces the Fighting Illini on Saturday.
Wisconsin vs. Illinois Game Preview
When: Saturday, Nov. 12 – 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wisc.
TV Broadcast: ESPN2
Wisconsin is used to playing close games, but this shouldn’t be one of them. Six of the Badgers’ nine games have been decided by eight points or fewer, and last week’s 21-7 win over Northwestern didn’t exactly come easily, either. They’re 7-2 and are in a three-way tie with Nebraska and Minnesota atop the Big Ten West, but they control their own destiny for a berth in the conference title game by holding the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Cornhuskers and a date with the Golden Gophers looming Nov. 26.
Illinois likely will have to play a nearly flawless game in order to even make this one competitive. It snapped a two-game skid with Saturday’s 31-27 victory over a Michigan State team that’s winless in the Big Ten, but the offense still sputtered at times and will need a better effort against Wisconsin’s tough defense.
What To Know About Wisconsin
The Badgers have been living dangerously during their three-game winning streak, with close wins over Iowa, Nebraska and, most recently, Northwestern. Coach Paul Chryst has elected to play both Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston at quarterback with mixed results. Wisconsin has had more rushing yards than passing over the last two, when it didn’t reach 400 total yards in either. Corey Clement carried 32 times against Northwestern, three short of matching his season high set just two weeks prior.
The defense has stepped up as usual, though. Wisconsin has allowed more than 400 yards only once, and that was its overtime loss to Ohio State. It ranks third in the conference in total defense and 11th nationally despite a plethora of injuries, although T.J. Watt and Natrell Jamerson were not listed on this week’s injury report.
What To Know About Illinois
Illinois pulled out a win over the Spartans despite being outgained by 186 yards, taking advantage of 10 penalties. The Fighting Illini rank 13th in the conference in total offense and haven’t gone over 400 since a loss to Purdue on Oct. 8. Jeff George Jr. threw two touchdown passes last week, but he’s completed only 42.3 percent of his passes in three games with Wes Lunt and Chayce Crouch out. He’ll be going up against a Wisconsin defense that has allowed only five passing touchdowns, tied for the second-fewest in the nation.
Offense: Wisconsin – Clement is the difference among these struggling units.
Defense: Wisconsin – This has been the reason the Badgers have been so successful.
Special Teams: Wisconsin – Illinois has the worst kickoff coverage in the conference in yards allowed per return.
Coaching: Wisconsin – Lovie Smith is still getting adjusted to the college game for the 3-6 Illini.
Intangibles: Wisconsin – The Badgers have won the last six meetings.
Matchup To Watch
Clement vs. Illinois’ defense
We know Wisconsin is going to shut down the Illini. The only chance Illinois has of keeping this game close is stuffing Clement, and that’s no easy task.
Spread: Wisconsin -26.5
Wisconsin vs. Illinois Prediction
Hornibrook and Houston each throw a touchdown pass on drives Clement gets into the red zone, and the Badgers intercept George twice in an easy victory.
Wisconsin vs. Illinois final score prediction: Wisconsin 31, Illinois 7