3. Illinois vs. No. 19 Wisconsin (October 21)
Back in 2019, the Lovie Smith-led Illini edged the No. 11 ranked Badgers, 24-23 at Memorial Stadium. Both schools now have different head coaches, different quarterbacks and have similar trajectories.
For the Badgers, first-year head coach Luke Fickell looks to increase Wisconsin’s win total from 2022 (seven). Redshirt senior and transfer Tanner Mordecai played against Fickell and the Cincinnati Bearcats in the American Athletic Conference while at SMU. Now, Fickell and Mordecai join forces to maintain the Badgers’ expectations for 2023.
Big Ten matchups are crucial throughout any point of the season. In 2022, the Illini throttled the Badgers in Madison, 34-10. Before last season’s victory, Illinois had not won at Camp Randall Stadium since 2002.
On the other hand, Illinois will not have the stellar run game Chase Brown excited fans with last season. The run game has seen talent and depth for the Illini under Bielema, but there are high expectations.
Jordan Anderson will miss 2023 with a knee injury. In a projected depth chart, Reggie Love III is expected to be the starting running back to begin this season. Although inexperienced, Love III was a coveted recruit out of high school. All-time, the Illini are 38-44-7 against the Badgers. For the second straight season, Illinois looks to secure the Tomahawk Trophy.