This weekend, the Wisconsin Badgers travel to Champaign for a rare Big Ten night game that could not be a tougher matchup for the Illinois Fighting Illini. Coming off a very impressive beating of then #19 Northwestern, who was held to a mere six points, the Badgers look to continue their winning ways against a team that struggled mightily against the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the wild wind in Lincoln, Nebraska two weeks ago.
The stout Badgers defense will look to continue dominating their opponents, as they are the nations 10th best running defense, only allowing 90.1 yards per game. Thus far in the young season, Wisconsin has only allowed 2.85 yards per rush, while allowing a total of 4.1 yards per play.
Part of the great run defense comes from the very talented senior inside linebacker Chris Borland, who ranks third in the Big Ten with 56 tackles. Borland posted a career high sixteen tackles against The Ohio State University Buckeyes, while following that up with double digit tackles against Northwestern the following weekend.
Borland is only one forced fumble away from tying the national and Big Ten mark of fourteen for his career. In the previous two games against the Illini, Borland has posted some very impressive numbers, having 26 tackles, two pass breakups, and three forced fumbles. Borland is a beast inside, and the Illini will do whatever they can to make adjustments to keep the ball away from the talented senior.
Another impressive player the Illini will have to make adjustments against is the freshman cornerback Sojourn Shelton, who is fourth in the Big Ten with 3 picks. The Illini passing game can expect Shelton to blanket their top receivers, so it will be imperative that other guys find ways to get open in the passing game.
At 4-2 overall and 2-1 in Big Ten play, the Badgers biggest strength may lie in their ability to shut teams down when they are attempting to convert on third down. On the young season, their opponents are only converting a paltry 29% of third downs, giving their defense something to hang their hat on.
When the Badgers defense held a talented Northwestern team to six points, the nation stood up and took notice of the talent on this team, from the line to the safeties. With the 13th best passing defense nationally (177.2 YPG) and the fifth best overall defense nationally (267.3 YPG), the Badgers will look to continue their winning ways against the Illini, as they are 7-1 in the past eight games against this squad.
Prediction: While I would love to be the optimistic one and say the Illini are going to surprise some people, the Badgers team looks to be playing at a high level right now. If they can find a way to get the run game going, they may be able to keep it close late in to the game.
Wisconsin 33 – Illinois 24
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