Date: October 20th, 2018
Game Time: 12:00 PM ET
Venue: Camp Randall Stadium Madison, WI.
Television Network: FS1
Illinois (3-3) vs. Wisconsin (4-2)
The Wisconsin Badgers came to the 2018 season having National Championship aspirations. After losing to BYU, at home, at Camp Randall Stadium, earlier this season, Wisconsin is looking to find balance between their fantastic rushing game led by sophomore RB Jonathan Taylor, and there average passing game led by junior QB Alex Hornibrook.
For the Illinois Fighting Illini, last week was a huge let down. It seemed as though progress was being made after the Illini’s route of Rutgers but Illinois hosted the Purdue Boilermakers last weekend and got ripped to shreds by a final score of 46-7. The season outlook is starting to look bleak as Illinois approaches the tougher part of their schedule.
Why Wisconsin Can Win
First of all, if you don’t know who sophomore RB Jonathan Taylor is, you better. He is a future first round pick in the NFL Draft in my opinion and was a Heisman hopeful at the start of the season this year. So far he has rushed for 980 yards and 8 TD’s on 190 attempts. Any RB that can average over 5 yards a carry will always be an asset to this run first Wisconsin Badgers team. I believe the success that he has had this season can be largely attributed to the Badger’s offensive line. Coming into this season, many people around the country believed that this unit was the best in the entire country, fueling into the expectations for Wisconsin this season. If Wisconsin will win, Taylor needs to run and run a lot.
Why Illinois Can Win
To contrast with all the negativity from last week’s game against Purdue, I have some factors that could change Illinois’ fortunes.
1.) Get Mike Epstein going
I don’t understand what happened last week but sophomore RB Mike Epstein, arguably the best player on the Illini offense, only carried the ball once last week, but was on the field quite often. I don’t know if 5th year senior QB AJ Bush made some of the wrong reads on his “read option” plays, however there is no excuse to not get your best player involved early and often.
2.) AJ Bush needs to pass the ball with consistency
It has almost been like a crutch for this Illini when AJ Bush elects to throw the ball. Don’t get me wrong, the kid can make the throws but more often than not, he doesn’t. AJ Bush elects to run the ball rather than through it and although it kept defenses on their heals at the beginning of the season, opposing defenses are starting to stack the box because they don’t buy that Bush will be throwing the ball. Bush needs to have a much more balanced approached to his game and when he gets his receivers open, he needs to hit them.
3.) Stop the run
This is more for today’s game, however it is no secret that Illinois’ defense has been one of the bottom tier defenses in the B1G. That has to change if they are going to upset Wisconsin this weekend. Food for thought, this Illinois defense is giving up about 500 yards per game to opposing offenses. Half of that is probably rushing yards and Illinois is hosting one of the premier running backs in the country. The key to winning this game is limiting Jonathan Taylor.
What will happen
Wisconsin has looked very very good since their early season loss to BYU, while the Illini have had their struggles. I fully expect Jonathan Taylor to carry the ball at least 25-30 times today and probably get around the 200 yard mark for total rushing yards. On the other side of the field, I just don’t see how Illinois can consistently move the ball against a Top 10 defense nationally especially when they struggled mightily against a sub-par Purdue defense last week. Take this to Vegas, I’m taking the Badgers to not only win today but cover the spread against the Illini.
Prediction: Illinois 9 Wisconsin 34
Line: Wisconsin -24.5