Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Preview

The Wisconsin Badgers look to keep the good times rolling as they travel to Champaign, IL Saturday night to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini in a Big Ten conference showdown. The Badgers come into this game ranked 25th in the nation, meanwhile the Illini are looking to get their first conference win.

The Illini are led by their senior gunslinger Nathan Scheelhaase, who has thrown the ball for 1,297 yards and 12 touchdowns to 4 interceptions. Scheelhaase has definitely had shining moments this season. Against Cincinnati Scheelhaase threw for 312 yards and 4 touchdowns leading the Illini to a 45-17 win. In a 50-14 win over Miami (OH), Scheelhaase threw for 5 touchdowns and 278 yards. Games like these are why the Illini have the 29th best passing offense (281.4 yds) in the nation. The Illini passing attack will have to be spot on for them to stay in the game Saturday. The Illini defense will undoubtedly have to step up and control the Badgers running game. Coming into Saturday’s game, the Illini have one of the worst defenses not only in the Big Ten but the nation as well. The defense has given up just about 450 yards of total offense (101st in NCAA, 11th in Big Ten) and have allowed 27.6 points per game.

Speaking of the Badgers running game, it ranks as the 5th best in the nation with an average of 298.2 yards per game. The three-headed monster running attack is led by Melvin Gordon, who has rushed for 870 yards and 8 touchdowns. Also in the backfield is James White (574 yds, 5TD) and Corey Clement (353 yds, 4TD), both of which fill in nicely and don’t miss a beat when Gordon needs a breather. It’s this three-headed attack that has been the bread and butter for the Badgers. Quarterback Joel Stave has played well at times, but has also struggled and made poor decisions throughout the season. Star wideout Jared Abbrederis is the only receiver Stave has had any real connection with and his status for the game is still questionable, although coach Gary Andersen is feeling good his top pass catcher will suit up.

Abbrederis’ status is the real big question mark I have heading into this game. I feel confident that the Badgers defense will be able to hold Scheelhaase from having another big day. The three-headed rushing attack of Gordon, White and Clement should have another big game.

Prediction: Although the Badgers tend to struggle on the road and play down to their opponents at times, I don’t see that happening this Saturday.

Wisconsin-27   Illinois-17

Game will be televised at 7:00 P.M. on BTN.

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