Game Breakdown and Best Bets: Week 5 Wisconsin vs. Illinois
It was an embarrassing performance for myself and the Wisconsin Badgers last week against the No. 3 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. The Badgers got trounced 52-21, and it wasn’t even that close.
I had another 0-4 week, bringing my yearly record to 2-10. I can’t catch a break with any of my bets and honestly have been flat-out wrong about how talented I thought this Wisconsin Badgers team was.
But I will hold my head high and make four more picks this week that probably won’t hit, sending me into a spiraling depression.
This week the Wisconsin Badgers (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) will return home to Camp Randall Stadium to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten). Kickoff is at 11 am (CST) on Big Ten Network.
To find all of our content for this week’s game, visit badgernotes.com.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Saturday marks Bret Bielema’s first time returning to Camp Randall since he left the program 10 years ago to go and get his ass kicked in the SEC for five seasons.
Credit where credit is due, though. Bielema has the Illini trending up, and a victory against the Badgers would only add to that.
Illinois has deployed a balanced attack on offense this season, attempting 136 passes and rushing the ball 176 times.
Quarterback Tommy Devito has been excellent this season, completing over 68% of his passes for 951 yards, nine touchdowns, and only two interceptions – good for a 151.2 passer rating, putting Devito in the top 50 in the nation.
Isaiah Williams and Pat Bryant have been Devito’s favorite targets through the season’s first four games. The duo has combined for 42 receptions, 522 yards, and four touchdowns.
It won’t be the same challenge for the Badgers’ defense as last week against Ohio State’s elite receiving corps, but it will still be a tall task for a banged-up and struggling Wisconsin secondary.
The fighting Illini’s passing game is solid, but the star of the offense is undoubtedly junior runningback Chase Brown.
Brown leads the nation in rushing, collecting 604 yards on 95 attempts through four contests. However, he has only scored four total touchdowns this season. Regardless, Illinois will certainly look to get Brown going early and try to wear down Wisconsin’s defensive line.
Illinois’ Solid Defense
The Fighting Illini have been nothing short of excellent on defense this season. They rank No. 5 in the nation in yards allowed per game (234.5) and points allowed per game (8). While also leading the country in pass efficiency defense, per ESPN.
Defensive linemen Jer’Zhan Newton and Keith Randolph Jr. will be the biggest x-factors for Illini this week. The dynamic duo has been wreaking havoc on opposing offenses this year, combining for 42 total tackles, five sacks, and one interception this season.
If the Badgers’ offensive line struggles to block Newton and Randolph Jr., it will be a long day for Wisconsin.
The Badgers desperately need a win this week after the ass-whooping they took at the hands of the Buckeyes last week, and it won’t come easy against the Illini this Saturday.
As mentioned earlier, Illinois brings one of the best defensive units in the country into the contest, which is bad news for a Wisconsin offense that looked lost for a majority of their matchup last week.
The good news for the Badgers is that starting left tackle Jack Nelson is expected to return to the lineup this week, which is a massive boost for the offense.
Right tackle Riley Mahlman wasn’t on the initial injury report this week, but all signs point towards the redshirt freshman missing his fourth consecutive game due to injury. In Mahlman’s absence, Trey Wedig has stepped up big time and played some great football, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets the starting nod or rotates snaps with Mahlman down the road.
I say this every week, but the offensive line will be a major factor in the Badgers winning this game. Illinois only allows 87.3 yards per game rushing, so the big fellas up front and Braelon Allen could be in for a long day if they don’t play to the best of their abilities.
Graham Mertz and the passing attack also face a huge challenge this week against Illinois’ elite secondary. Mertz played terribly last week, and if he doesn’t get off to a solid start, I’m afraid the results could be the same this week.
To make matters even worse, the Badgers lost tight end Clay Cundiff for the season to a left leg fracture last week. Cundiff had been a favorite target for Mertz and was really coming into his own in Bobby Engram’s offense.
The Badgers’ defense was outmatched last week against the more talented Buckeye offense; they will need to bounce back in a big way this week and keep this game close enough for Wisconsin to have a chance at victory.
Someone on the defensive line besides Nick Herbig and Keeanu Benton needs to make an impact this week to try and slow down Illinois’ impressive running game. If the Badgers can take away the run, it will make life much more difficult for the Illini.
That said, the Wisconsin secondary is a little banged up at the moment and let C.J. Stroud do whatever he wanted last week. If they repeat that dreadful performance, the same result may hold true for Tommy Devito.
It’s been a terrible year for yours truly, but I’m back again with my best bets for this week’s contest.
Best Bets Season Record: (2-10…fucking yikes)
- Illinois Fighting Illini +7 (-110) – It pains me to say this is my favorite bet of the week. Illinois has looked strong this season, and although I believe the Badgers will win, this should be an extremely close game.
- Game total under 43.5 points (-110) – In our staff predictions article, I said this will be a classic low-scoring Big Ten football game. I see a lot of work for the punters this game and not a whole lot of touchdowns.
- Will there be a scoreless quarter? Yes (+145) – Continuing with the close game, low-scoring trend. It’s very realistic that 15 minutes goes by without either team moving the ball much, let alone score.
- Braelon Allen to score 2 touchdowns (+150) – As mentioned in my earlier picks, there won’t be many points to go around, but if the Badgers do score, it’s likely to come from Allen.
- Defensive or special teams touchdown by either team (+203) – I can’t give this bet up; it has to cash for me one of these weeks.
- Will there be overtime, yes (+800) – This will not go on my record (unless it hits, then of course I will act like the smartest gambler of all time), but if you’re feeling dangerous, throw a few bucks on this game going to OT with both teams so evenly matched.
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