Illinois Should Be Easy Pickings for the Badgers


Nov 19, 2011; Champaign, IL, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Montee Ball (28) dives for a touchdown against the Illinois Fighting Illini during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE

The Badgers need a bounce-back game after their crushing loss to Nebraska. Enter Illinois. The Fighting Illini are 2-3 and coming off consecutive home losses. And these weren’t just any losses, these were complete laughers. Two weeks ago they were beaten 52-24 by Louisiana Tech, and last week they fell 35-7 to Penn State. And now they get to travel to Camp Randall to face a thoroughly ticked-off Wisconsin squad.

A team that can’t even hang with lowly Penn State at home should have no shot on the road against the Badgers. Don’t tell me about the Badgers’ struggles either. We know this isn’t the Badgers of Russell Wilson, Nick Toon, Kevin Zeitler, Peter Konz and Bradie Ewing. We know they’re not as dominating physically as they’ve been in the past. We know they’re young and inexperienced. We know their quarterback situation is a bit of a mess. Trust me, none of that will matter against Illinois.

After playing a tough schedule the first five weeks, the Badgers are in dire need of a patsy to slap around, and this week they have one. Illinois is flat-out dreadful. Just listen to their head coach Tim Beckman after the Penn State debacle. We’re five games in and this dude already sounds defeated:

"These last two weekends have been real, real tough, there’s no question about that. Not just for this football program but for Illini Nation.We know that we have to perform better to be successful. We can’t turn the football over. We have to stop teams when they do have the opportunity to score in the red zone. We have to score in the red zone.Just together as a team, it’s been sort of a snowball effect that’s happened to us during these football games."

Defense has been the biggest issue for Illinois. Last year they were dominating, but this offseason they had a lot of turnover on the coaching staff – sound familiar? – and now they’re scuffling. Did I say “scuffling?” They gave up 35 points to Penn State at home. That is brutal.

The coaches themselves seem befuddled by their struggles. “We’ve been practicing hard and practicing well, and I thought we’ve done the things necessary to play well,” said defensive line coach Keith Gilmore. “For whatever reason during the course of the game, we’re kind of falling apart and we’re still trying to figure it out.”

Hopefully the snowball will keep rolling downhill for Illinois this week. The Badgers need a soft defense to push around after that dogfight in Lincoln. The offensive line needs to gain some confidence. So does Joel Stave who got yanked against Nebraska after taking a beating at the hands of Will Compton and the Huskers defense.

Offensively, the problem for Illinois has been turnovers. Last week Nathan Sheelhaase was picked off twice. Overall on the season Illinois has coughed the ball up 14 times, 4th most in the nation. This has meant a lot of short fields for the opposition, which has only worsened their defensive woes.

This is just what the Badgers ordered. An offense that can’t protect the ball and a defense that can’t stop anyone. And they get this team at home. If this were 2011 I’d be looking for an 83-10 massacre. This being 2012, the year of scaled-back expectations, I’ll be happy with a 4-touchdown runaway.

Some fans may be nervous after the Badgers’ early less-than-stellar home performances but not me. This Illinois team is a joke. The Badgers will romp.

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