The Illinois Fighting Illini and Wisconsin Badgers will have the opening night honors for the Big Ten. The Big Ten kicks off in Madison, Wisconsin at Camp Randall. There won’t be any fans there to watch this one, so Jump Around will be played to an empty stadium in Madison at the end of the third quarter.
With the Big Ten underway now, the Pac-12 is the only Power Five conference who are not playing football at the moment. The Pac-12 is expected to begin on November 7, so we will have a full menu of college football soon.
Yes, the Big Ten and Pac-12 are eligible for the College Football Playoff. This is especially important for Ohio State, who many believe is a lock to go to CFP. I’m not going to say lock, but the Buckeyes are a very good team with plenty to like on their roster.
Wisconsin is looking to play spoiler in the Big Ten and shake things up with a change-up. The Badgers lost 34-21 against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship this past year. They were kind of in that game, but it never really felt like they were going to win.
Wisconsin settled for the Rose Bowl, which was a nice consolation prize for losing against the Buckeyes. It was a highly entertaining game that came down to the final minutes. They were unable to win the Rose Bowl, and ultimately edged out by Justin Herbert and the Oregon Ducks by a score of 28-27.
Tough loss, and if I recall, there was a controversy with the officiating in a call that didn’t go Wisconsin’s way late in the fourth quarter. It was certainly a game that could have gone in either direction. The Badgers were on the losing side of a close call in Pasadena.
Meanwhile, Illinois were just ecstatic to go to a bowl game last season, the name didn’t matter too much. Illinois appeared in the Redbox Bowl for a losing effort against Cal, 35-20. I think the Fighting Illini were just glad to be there after a 6-6 campaign in the Big Ten. Note that it was the first bowl for Illinois since a loss in the Heart of Dallas bowl in 2014.
It was the best season for Illinois under head coach Lovie Smith. Now the Fighting Illini have to be thinking more than 6-6 in 2020, but they get a tough assignment out of the gate in 2020. Head below for our free Illinois vs. Wisconsin pick for October 23, 2020.
Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Wisconsin Badgers Betting Odds:
Illinois vs. Wisconsin Prediction:
Many will describe this game as a revenge spot for Wisconsin. In a sense it’s true. Wisconsin lost in a huge upset last year against the Fighting Illini. Illinois won 24-23 in the biggest upset of the year in college football. The Badgers were undefeated at 6-0 going up against a 2-4 Illinois team on the road.
That win jump started the Illinois program, but you can say that Wisconsin did not take that game seriously. That’s what can happen when a team takes their eyes off an opponent. Wisconsin hasn’t forgotten about that game, though I don’t think they need a revenge angle to pummel Illinois in this contest.
Wisconsin lose starting talent on offense, but with this program, it’s the next man up mentality. Quarterback Jake Coan injured his foot in practice and will not be available for Wisconsin on Friday night. Coan was coming along last season for the Badgers, but he will have to wait while highly touted freshman Graham Mertz gets the call.
Mertz received offers from Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Miami, Texas A&M, and several other schools. He is a good quarterback, and Wisconsin is confident that Mertz is going to be the best they’ve had in Madison since Russell Wilson. Mertz must like playing behind a big and talented offensive line, because that’s what Wisconsin provides.
Jonathan Taylor left for the NFL this past offseason, so that leaves an opportunity for the next star running back to emerge out of Wisconsin. Nakia Watson and Garrett Groshek are likely going to run for miles behind one of the best offensive lines in football this season. Ohio State’s offensive line gives Wisconsin a run for their money, but the Badgers are going to be big and athletic again.
This is certainly here Wisconsin is going to do damage on Friday night. The Fighting Illini retain some talent in their secondary, though they need to replace several players upfront. That’s just not what you want against Wisconsin, especially in the first game. Hitting in practice is one thing, but having to gear up to get hit by this Badgers’ offensive line is another thing. Look for Wisconsin to wear the Illinois defense out on the ground.
Brandon Peters returns for his second season as the starting signal caller for Illinois. The former Wolverine was fine last season, as he connected for 18 touchdowns and 8 interceptions on 55.3% completions. I’m not confident in him on the road at Camp Randall, though. Wisconsin returns another stellar defense this season, a defense that gave up just 191.2 passing yards per game.
This is a point spread that you’ll look at initially and think, oh, the play has to be Illinois with a nearly three-touchdown cushion. However, when Wisconsin gets their running game going tonight, it likely won’t be stopped. Expect Wisconsin to employ their ground and pound, with Mertz showing flashes of why the Badgers are so high on him. A close game turns into a comfortable win for Wisconsin in the second half. 42-20 for Wisconsin is where I see this final score going.