CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – DECEMBER 30: Quarterback Graham Mertz #5 of the Wisconsin Badgers looks to take the snap against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during the first half of the Duke’s Mayo Bowl at Bank of America Stadium on December 30, 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

BadgerNotes Staff Predictions: Wisconsin Badgers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini

BadgerNotes Staff Predictions: Wisconsin Badgers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini

Madison, Wis. – Head coach Paul Chryst and the Wisconsin Badgers (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) return home on Saturday to host Bret Bielema and the Illinois Fighting Illini (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) at Camp Randall Stadium.

Wisconsin is coming off an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes, losing 52-21 on the road in a game that was over before it even started.

Brett Bielema and company, on the other hand, won 31-0 last week over the Chatanooga Mocs and are beginning to take a noticeable step forward in his second season leading the program.

Here is how our BadgerNotes team sees Saturday’s matchup playing out on the field:

Dillon Graff: Managing Editor

Final Score Prediction: Wisconsin 31, Illinois 20

Head coach Paul Chryst and the Wisconsin Badgers (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) return home on Saturday to host the Illinois Fighting Illini (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) at Camp Randall Stadium.

UW, coming off an embarrassing 52-21 defeat at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes, enters the Karma Cup as seven-point favorites over Bret Bielema and the Illini.

Although Illinois is trending in the right direction in Bielema’s second season at the helm, this is a game that Wisconsin needs to dominate.

I still expect the Badgers to win the Big Ten West, but ill admit, I’ll feel much better after if Wisconsin wins this game handily – because, in my opinion, they should.

This weekend’s game against Wisconsin is coach Bielema’s Superbowl. Plain and simple. Expect the Illini to pull out all the stops in an effort to steal one on the road.

That said, I think Wisconsin will be in a close game through three quarters before taking control in the fourth and covering the spread.

Brandon Cooper: Staff Writer

Final score prediction: Wisconsin 21, Illinois 17

This game has Big Ten football written all over it. Two teams that can run the ball well on offense and are stout against the run on defense.

Both passing offenses aren’t great, although Illinois leads the nation in pass efficiency defense, so it might be tough sledding for the Wisconsin passing attack.

Like most Big Ten matchups, the game will come down to who can control the time of possession and win the turnover battle.

I think the Badgers make a few more stops defensively than the Fighting Illini do in the second half to come out the win.

With both teams being so evenly matched it should be a great game to watch. An ugly game, but a great game.

Alex Fletcher: Staff Writer

Final Score Prediction: Wisconsin 28, Illinois 14

Most Wisconsin Football fans are probably aware that the response to the beatdown the Badgers endured last week was not good. Many fans were unhappy with how things turned out, with some parts of the internet calling for a change in leadership. While I don’t necessarily share that opinion, the result was a bit of a shock, nonetheless.

With that being said, I believe this plays a role in the overall feel and motivation for this game. Wisconsin needs to bounce back and show, while not on the same level as Ohio State (not many are), they are a top-tier Big Ten team. The perfect way to do that is against a fellow Big Ten West team.

Emotions go both ways in this one, however. Former Badger head coach Bret Bielema is making his first return to Madison since stepping down in 2012. Couple that with running back Chase Brown averaging just north of 150 rushing yards per game, and I don’t expect this team to just roll over.

As of this writing, the number currently sits with Wisconsin being a seven-point favorite, and I think that is an appropriate opening line. However, I also think the Badgers use last week as motivation and cover that number. Look for both the offense and defense to get back on track.

Jake Maier: Staff Writer

Final Score Prediction: Wisconsin 31, Illinois 24

The Badgers were embarrassed in Columbus last weekend and now face their former head coach Bret Bielema in Madison.

Illinois has looked like a well put together team this year. The Illini defense has allowed just eight points per game, putting them in the top 5 of the least points allowed per game. However, the competition Illinois has faced is relatively weak.

I expect the Badgers to have a big rebound game following a blowout loss, and I believe Mertz will regain his confidence and look much better on offense. This game will come down to defense, and the Badgers have the edge in talent on that end. I have Wisconsin winning this one 31-24 and getting back to above .500.

Sam Strash: Staff Writer

Final Score Prediction: Wisconsin 20, Illinois 17

We haven’t seen Wisconsin struggle that much at Camp Randall Stadium in the past, but this year feels a little different.

Washington State gave the Badgers their first loss of the year at home, and I think Illinois stands a good chance to win in Madison, too.

They possess one of the best defenses in the country, but they’ve also played a very weak out-of-conference schedule. Their lone conference game this year was a loss to Indiana, and in this conference game, it’ll be the Badgers coming out on top with a narrow victory.

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