Illinois (2-3) at Wisconsin (3-2)|
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 6, 3:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Camp Randall Stadium (80,321) -- Madison, Wisconsin.
Television: ABC. Home Record: Illinois 2-2, Wisconsin 3-0. Away Record:
Illinois 0-1, Wisconsin 0-2. Neutral Record: Illinois 0-0, Wisconsin 0-0.
Conference Record: Illinois 0-1, Wisconsin 0-1. Series Record: Illinois leads,
GAME NOTES: The Illinois Fighting Illini pay a visit to Camp Randall Stadium
to resume their Big Ten Conference schedule against the Badgers of Wisconsin.
Illinois opened its league slate this past weekend with an ugly 35-7 home loss
to Penn State, in which the Fighting Illini fell behind early and never really
threatened. After wrapping up their homestand with a 1-2 mark, the Illini will
now hit the road for three of their next four contests. The team's only
previous road game to date resulted in a lopsided loss at Arizona State in
Wisconsin is 0-2 on the road but is unbeaten in three home games so far this
season. The Badgers are in the midst of a key stretch that will see them play
in Madison five times in a span of seven games. The Badgers are looking to get
back on track after having their modest two-game winning streak snapped in
last week's 30-27 setback at Nebraska.
Illinois holds a slim 36-35-7 edge in the head-to-head series, but Wisconsin
has won six of the last seven meetings.
Save for a 44-0 win over FCS school Charleston Southern on Sept. 15, the
Illini offense has been largely inefficient. They enter this weekend's tilt
ranked 96th nationally in total offense (349.8 ypg) and tied for 97th in
scoring (22.6 ppg). Nathan Scheelhaase finished with 270 yards passing but was
intercepted twice against PSU, as Illinois lost for the 16th time in the last
20 meetings in that series. Ryan Lankford finished with seven catches for a
game-high 104 yards in the loss, but he was one of the few bright spots in the
loss. The Illinois offense turned the ball over three times in all and was
shutout for the game's first 34 minutes. Head coach Tim Beckman spent the week
leading up to the game talking about how Illinois wants to make the Big Ten
title game. Understandably, his tone has not been quite as optimistic this
Illinois forced a three-and-out on the game's opening possession, but things
quickly spiraled out of control soon after. Tommy Davis lost a fumble on the
ensuing punt return at the Illini 26-yard line. The defense held PSU to a
field-goal attempt, but a running into the kicker penalty kept the drive
alive. Two plays later, the Nittany Lions were in the end zone for the first
of their five TDs. Illinois left a few too many open running lanes for Penn
State's Zach Zwinak, who notched his first career 100-yard rushing game and
scored twice. With Heisman candidate Montee Ball on the docket this week, the
Illini will need to shore up their run defense in a hurry.
Wisconsin's offense has been awfully slow to get going through five games. The
Badgers enter this tilt tied with Illinois in scoring offense (22.6 ppg) and
are ranked 109th in total offense (309.2 ypg). The rushing offense, which led
the Big Ten a year ago, currently ranks last in the conference and 96th in the
nation despite Ball returning for his senior season. Ball was knocked out of
the UTEP game two weeks ago with a head injury and did not return. He was back
in action at Nebraska and was given a full workload, rushing 32 times for 90
yards and three TDs. However, he fumbled on 4th-and-1 near midfield late in
the fourth quarter with the Badgers trying to move into position to either win
or tie. Danny O'Brien replaced an ineffective Joel Stave at quarterback for
that drive, and he completed 3-of-4 passes for 25 yards.
Wisconsin surrendered only 10 first-half points against nationally-ranked
Nebraska, but the defense began to tire in the second half as the Cornhuskers
scored on four straight drives to erase a 17-point deficit. Nebraska
quarterback Taylor Martinez gashed the Badgers for 181 yards and two TDs
through the air, and he also rushed for a game-high 107 yards and another
score. The Badgers were able to hang around thanks in part to their red-zone
defense, as Nebraska had to settle for field goals on three of its five trips
inside the 20. Mike Taylor was a one-man wrecking crew, as he amassed a game-
high 15 tackles in the loss. Taylor ranks second in the Big Ten and is among
the national leaders with an average of 11.0 stops per game.
In addition to their turnovers, the Illini shot themselves in the foot with
eight penalties against Penn State. They can ill-afford a repeat of that type
of performance on the road against a Wisconsin squad that will be hungry for a
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wisconsin 31, Illinois 10
10/03 10:44:04 ET