WHEN THE BADGERS HAVE THE BALL
UW’s coming off arguably its worst offensive performance of the season in a 38-13 loss at Michigan, where its passing game produced only 100 yards and quarterback Alex Hornibrook completed just 7 of 20 passes.
The Badgers’ run game continues to impress this season, however, and Jonathan Taylor is the nation’s second-leading rusher at 950 yards through six games. Taylor left in the first half with an injury the last time these teams met — an ugly, 24-10 win for UW in Champaign.
Illinois ranks 125th out of 130 FBS teams in total defense this season, surrendering more than 500 yards per game, and its 199.5 rushing yards allowed ranks 106th in the country. The Illini’s aggressive style often forces teams into mistakes. They rank in a tie for fifth nationally with 11 interceptions through six games.
EDGE | UW
KEY STAT | TAYLOR’S CONSISTENCY
Jonathan Taylor has rushed for more than 100 yards in seven straight contests dating back to last season’s Orange Bowl and has topped the century mark in 16 of 20 career games for the Badgers.
WHEN THE ILLINI HAVE THE BALL
Illinois’ offense could be heavy on the read-option, something Michigan used to break off some big gains against the Badgers last week. Its effectiveness for the Illini hasn’t always been consistent, though.
After a 116-yard, two-touchdown rushing performance from quarterback A.J. Bush against Rutgers on Oct. 6, he carried the ball 20 times for 24 yards in a 46-7 loss to Purdue last week. The running back tandem of junior Reggie Corbin and sophomore Mike Epstein could be dangerous. The pair have combined for 881 yards on 123 carries (7.16 average) and eight touchdowns this season.
Overall, the Illini hold the 22nd-best rushing offense in the country but rank 117th in the passing game. UW’s defense hasn’t played particularly well since its loss to BYU on Sept. 15 and currently ranks 69th nationally against the run.
The Badgers could be without a number of key members of the secondary Saturday. Safeties D’Cota Dixon (right leg), Scott Nelson (right leg) and Reggie Pearson (left leg) and cornerback Faion Hicks (left leg) are all questionable to play. Defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk (left leg) was ruled out Monday.
EDGE | UW
KEY STAT | SUDDEN-CHANGE DEFENSE
UW has surrendered just one touchdown on the six opponent drives resulting from turnovers this season. Dating back to the start of the 2017 season, the Badgers have allowed points on just nine of 25 “sudden-change” possessions following turnovers (five touchdowns, four field goals).
Three-year starting kicker Chase McLaughlin has made 9-of-14 field goals for Illinois this season, while Blake Hayes averages 45.06 yards per punt.
UW’s Anthony Lotti averages 40 yards per punt, while Rafael Gaglianone’s only miss of the season remains the potential game-tying try in the final minute against BYU.
Badgers true freshman Aron Cruickshank is starting to look more dangerous on kickoff returns.
EDGE | EVEN
Lovie Smith has the experience of being an NFL head coach and took the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl, but he hasn’t been able to turn around the Illini in the third year of his first head coaching job at the college level.
Despite UW’s disappointing season to this point, Paul Chryst holds a 38-9 record in his fourth year with the Badgers.
EDGE | UW
Illinois sits at 3-3 and still holds hope of making its first bowl game since 2014. An upset win at Camp Randall could spark the Illini’s season and Smith’s tenure as head coach. Both teams are coming off a blowout loss. The Badgers’ defeat eliminated any hope of winning their way back into the College Football Playoff discussion.
EDGE | ILLINOIS
STATE JOURNAL’S PICK
This is the type of opponent UW needs after its brutal loss at Michigan. The Badgers should be able to control the game and leave Camp Randall with a comfortable victory.
BADGERS 38, ILLINOIS 17
THE NUMBER (UW)
9 | wins for UW in 10 games against Illinois when the Badgers are ranked in the AP poll.
THE NUMBER (Illinois)
21 | straight losses for Illinois against ranked opponents. The Illini have dropped 30 of their last 31 such games since upsetting No. 1 Ohio State in 2007.