Wisconsin looks to make statement against Illinois on the road

Written by Garin Turner


For the second week in a row, the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers (7-0, 4-0 BIG) are on the outside looking in for the College Playoffs as they travel to Champaign to take on the Fighting Illini (2-5, 0-4 BIG). On paper this seems like a mismatch but the Badgers have to be careful not to scoreboard watch for other teams ahead of them in the rankings. They also need to focus on the Illini and not worry about the upcoming schedule which includes a trip to an improved Indiana team next week and then a big game at home in two weeks against Michigan. For the Illini, they need to play a mistake free game on both sides of the ball if they want to have a chance in this one.

Game time is 11 AM CST on ESPN Saturday. The Badgers are looking for their eighth straight win against the Illini. In that span, they’ve won three straight at Memorial Stadium and five out of the last six. Wisconsin won last week at home against Maryland 38-13. The Illini are on a five- game losing streak including a loss last week on the road against Minnesota 24-17.

The Badgers might go for the knockout punch early especially with the running game. Jonathan Taylor who’s coming off of Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors last week and for the fourth time this season, leads the way. Taylor leads the Big Ten in rushing and ranks No. 3 nationally with 158.9 yards a game. Taylor has 149 carries for 1,112 yards and 11 touchdowns which also leads the Big Ten.

Quarterback Alex Hornibrook does have seven interceptions on the season so that is something to keep an eye on. He’s completed 98 passes out of 149 for 1,435 yards and 13 touchdowns. Quintez Cephus and Troy Fumagalli are his top targets with 25 receptions apiece. Cephus has 446 yards and five touchdowns while Fumagalli has 350 yards and three touchdowns.

The Illini will need long drives out of their offense to keep Taylor and the Badgers offense on the sideline and to give their own defense a break. This will start with good quarterback play. The Illini have played three different quarterbacks already on the season. Chayce Crouch started the season as the starter but was benched for Jeff George Jr. and last week the Illini put true freshman QB Cam Thomas into the game. It’s too early to know what Thomas can do as it was only a sample size last week. Thomas was two for four passing for 33 yards and an interception. He did provide a spark in the running game with 10 rushes for 79 yards. Crouch is 41 for 77 on the year for 427 yards with just one touchdown and four interceptions. George is 72 for 128 with 893 yards, four touchdowns and seven interceptions.

If the Illini lose this game, they’ll have to win the remaining of their games to become bowl eligible. The Wisconsin Badgers are looking to go 8-0 and make a case for being in the discussion for one of the top four spots for the College Football Playoff.

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