With each passing day, we are getting closer and closer to Illinois football in 2014. Even though the Fighting Illini improved their overall record in 2013, fans are just as anxious leading into the 2014 campaign. This is because the Orange & Blue are close to returning to the postseason, and many fans want to see the Illini earn a bowl bid in 2014.
The next game on our schedule preview for the 2014 season is Illinois’ match-up against the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison.
2013 Record: 9-4 (6-2 in the Big Ten)
Key Losses: RB James White, WR Jared Abbrederis, TE Jacob Pedersen, DE Ethan Hemer, LB Ethan Armstrong, LB Chris Borland, FS Dezmen Southward
Key Returners: QB Joel Stave, RB Melvin Gordon, WR Jordan Fredrick, CB Darius Hillary, CB Sojourn Shelton, SS Michael Caputo
Player to Watch: RB Melvin Gordon
Last season, Melvin Gordon absolutely killed the Fighting Illini defense. He was able to run for 142 yards in the game and totaled three rushing touchdowns. With the loss of James White this offseason, Gordon will definitely be the main guy this season for the Badgers offensively. Although the Illinois defense should improve (or so we hope) from last season, Gordon should be able to have another quality game against the Illini in Madison. If Gordon has a big game, the Illini will lose.
Prediction: Wisconsin 45 – Illinois 35
The score should be closer than the 2013 meeting, however, the result could be the same. Yes, Wisconsin lost some quality talent on the defensive side of the ball, but the Illinois defense isn’t anything to “write home about” right now. Illini Nation is hoping that players like Jihad Ward, Dawuane Smoot, and Paul James III can help the defense against the run. We just haven’t seen them on the field in a game yet to know for sure. The Illini should do well offensively, but Melvin Gordon might be too much for the Orange & Blue defense to handle again in 2014.
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