Watching the tape on Illinois, Jonathan Taylor has to be grinning.
The Wisconsin junior running back and Heisman candidate was held to fewer than 100 rushing yards for the first time in six games this season, despite the Badgers coming away with a 38-0 win over Michigan State on Saturday. He still punched the end zone twice for a pair of touchdowns but only averaged 3.1 yards on a season-high 26 carries.
Taylor, though, faces a much easier road to success this Saturday at 11 a.m. CT when the Badgers (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) travel take on the Fighting Illini (2-4, 0-3) in Champaign, Illinois. Two straight opponents have gouged the Illini’s run defense with a pair of 100-yard rushers for both Minnesota and Michigan.
Is there a chance Illinois plugs up its holes in time to handle Taylor and the Badgers on their home field? Let’s take a closer look at the college football matchup.
When and Where: Wisconsin at Illinois
- Location: Memorial Stadium (Champaign, Ill.)
- Date: 10/19/19 (Saturday)
- Time: 11 a.m. CT
- Coverage: Big Ten Network
Follow the Heavy on Betting for all the latest betting news, odds, and picks
Wisconsin isn’t just winning games this season. It is rolling programs, one after another, regardless of whether they are conference foes.
The Badgers have outscored their last two opponents 86-0 and haven’t allowed more than 15 opposing points all season, including a 35-14 win over a ranked Michigan team. Jack Coan has done well as a complement to the running prowess of Taylor, passing for 1,119 yards and eight touchdowns with just one interception through six straight victories.
Taylor, though, leads the nation with 14 rushing touchdowns and sits just one yard behind Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins for the most rushing yards with 825. He also had a good amount of success last season when he matched up against the Illini last October, rushing 27 times for 159 yards in the Badgers’ 49-20 win. The only thing missing from his resume against Illinois is a touchdown, which seems like it could be in the cards this week.
The promise of better things seems to still be another season away in Champaign as Illinois has been unable to consistently contend with their Big Ten opponents. With four straight losses discouraging all talk of bowl possibilities, there has been no evidence yet that the Illini could successfully contend with the Badgers.
Most of the shortcomings fall on the defense, which has given up 40 points in three straight weeks and allowed no fewer than 23 points in every game since the season opener against Akron. It isn’t impossible for them to rise to the challenge of stopping Taylor, but it would take head coach Lovie Smith — who doubles as defensive coordinator — getting creative in his scheme to better utilize the talent he has available.
That talent also has to effectively tackle and avoid penalties, which have also stifled the Illini at numerous times throughout this season. Enough offense is present to get the job done, even if starting quarterback Brandon Peters remains out and the passing duties fall to backup Matt Robinson. USC transfers Josh Imatorbhebhe and Trevon Sidney have infused the system with a few more playmakers than last season, while veteran Ricky Smalling and tight end Daniel Barker have also emerged as regular threats.
Betting Odds & Trends
- Wisconsin (-31) vs. Illinois
- Over/Under: 49.5
*All odds are courtesy of Odds Shark
- 6-1 ATS in last 7 games
- 7-0 SU in last 7 games
- 16-4 SU in last 20 road games
- Total has gone OVER in 10 of last 15 games
- 1-4 SU in their last 5 games
- 1-4 ATS in last 5 games played in October
Head to Head
- Total has gone OVER in 5 of last 6 series games
- Illinois is 1-6 SU in last 7 series games at home
- Wisconsin is 5-2 AT in last 7 series games
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Badgers have a 97 percent chance of walking out of Champaign with their record still spotless and the Illini still struggling. If anything, this week should be about the Badgers ironing out some details before their ranked matchups in the coming week — on the road at Ohio State and hosting Iowa.
Pick: I wouldn’t pick Illinois with someone else’s money, and certainly not my own. The Badgers are going to win and win big, covering the spread in the process as they rack up points all afternoon on their way to 7-0.