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Wisconsin Football Behind Enemy Lines Q&A With Armchair Illinois

Find out more about the next Wisconsin football opponent from an Illinois insider here.



former Wisconsin Badgers football head coach Paul Chryst shakes hands with Bret Bielema
Oct 1, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Bret Bielema greets Wisconsin Badgers head coach Paul Chryst following the game at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Fickell and the Wisconsin Badgers football team (4-2, 2-1 B1G) will travel to Illinois this weekend for a Saturday afternoon contest vs. Bret Bielema and the Fighting Illini.

UW is coming off its most embarrassing loss of the season, losing 15-6 at home against Iowa. They’ll now face the challenge of playing Illinois, who beat Wisconsin bad enough last season they had a new head coach on Monday morning. Not to mention, the Illini are coming off a win against a good Maryland team last weekend.

So, in an effort to find out more about the Illinois Fighting Illini ahead of Saturday’s matchup, I connected with insider Alexander Kyi of Armchair Illini — to learn more about the Wisconsin football team’s next opponent.

What has contributed to Illinois taking a step backward after a breakthrough season a year ago? 

Undervalued impact of graduating players. Illinois felt very good about their team going into the season as they returned some star players at key positions. Johnny Newton and Keith Randolph were top shelf big ten defensive linemen who probably could be on NFL rosters right now. 

Also, Seth Coleman and Gabe Jacas had very good seasons last year. 

However, Calvin Avery was a fifth-year senior who was extremely solid at his job at the nose tackle position that, allowed these guys to get to the quarterback a little easier. The drop-off after Avery’s departure has been very evident. They felt great about returning Julian Pearl and Isaiah Adams for the same reasons. However, sixth-year seniors Alex Palczewski and Alex Pihlstrom were incredibly solid, which helped complement Pearl and Adams. The drop-off after Palczewski and Pihlstrom graduated was immense. 

There are other instances of this at other positions that have also led to a significant drop-off this year. 

What is the strength of the Illini this season that Wisconsin football fans should be aware of?

Not much to say, unfortunately. However, despite the inexperience and talent shortage on this roster, this team still fights for former Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema and seems to believe. 

That was pretty evident last week vs Maryland. This team will not wow you with anything they do, but they will be that scrappy team that hangs around. As the Big Ten West has shown, if a team can hang around and not beat themselves (Iowa), anyone can win. 

Does Illinois have a glaring weakness? 

Offensive line. This offensive line has been horrible. Luke Altmyer has his flaws, but he is practically running for his life on every play and gets sacked at least five times a game.

Player Wisconsin football fans should watch?

Wisconsin football fans will want to watch Isaiah Williams on offense. The guy is incredible and deserves a good offensive line that can help get him the ball on the perimeter. This is his 4th QB in 3 years as a Wide Reciever. 

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Dillon Graff is a Substack newsletter best-selling author, publisher of AllBadgers, and the owner of, your go-to source for in-depth coverage of the Wisconsin Badgers. His work has been featured in top media publications like USA Today's BadgersWire, Athlon Sports, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, Bucky's 5th Quarter, and FanSided.