Illinois vs. No. 14 Wisconsin

Illinois vs. No. 14 Wisconsin Big Ten Kickoff Game | 2020 NCAAF Expert Analysis

Written by on October 22, 2020

The first Big Ten game of the 2020 college football season kicks off Friday night when No. 14 Wisconsin, the favorite to repeat as West Division champion, faces unranked Illinois. The Badgers are heavy favorites on the NCAAF odds.

How to Bet Illinois at Wisconsin NCAA Football Odds & TV Info

  • When: Friday, 8 PM ET
  • Where: Camp Randall Stadium
  • TV: Big Ten Network
  • Stream: BTN+
  • Radio:com
  • Opening NCAAF Lines: Wisconsin -19.5 (total 51)

Last Meeting

They teams played last year in Champaign and the Illini pulled the biggest upset of the season, 24-23 over then-No. 6 Wisconsin. James McCourt kicked a 39-yard field goal as time expired. Tony Adams intercepted Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan at midfield with 2:33 remaining. Dre Brown’s tackle-breaking 13-yard run got Illinois to the Wisconsin 25 and allowed the Illini to run down the clock to attempt the game-winner. The Illini closed as 30.5-point dogs and became the first team to win outright as more than a 30-point underdog since Iowa State (+30.5) did it against No. 3 Oklahoma on Oct. 7, 2017.

Wisconsin leads all time 24-16-4 and has won seven straight at home vs. Illinois.

Why Bet on Illinois? | 2020 NCAAF Expert Analysis

In 2019, the Illini forced 28 turnovers in 13 games, 12 interceptions and 16 fumbles, ranking fourth in FBS in turnovers gained. The Illini’s 18 forced fumbles ranked fourth in FBS.

Illinois has lost linebacker Dele Harding and last year’s top four defensive linemen. Considering how important run support was to last year’s defensive improvement — Illinois was 48th in rushing success rate allowed and 19th in stuff rate, the percentage of runs stopped at or behind the line – that could be a problem.

On offense, guard Richie Petitbon and two 500-yard rushers have also left town. The receiving corps is loaded, led by Josh Imatorbhebhe, Donny Navarro, Trevon Sidney, tight end Daniel Barker and a couple of new transfers (NMSU receiver Desmond Dan Jr., USC tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe).

The five captains on the team this year are Doug Kramer, Brandon Peters, Jake Hansen, Nate Hobbs, and Blake Hayes. Kramer, Hansen, and Hayes were named captains for the second consecutive year. It is the first time in program history the Illini have had three two-time captains on the roster.

Peters was last year’s starting QB and the Michigan transfer was 152-of-275 passing for 1,884 yards and 18 touchdowns. Hansen is one of the nation’s top linebackers and will be a third-year starter. He is the only 2019 Butkus Award semifinalist in college football in 2020.

Illinois has more seniors on the 2020 roster (25) than 2018 and 2019 combined (21). The offensive line returns four starters from one of the best groups in the Big Ten in 2019. Returning are junior Kendrick Green, senior Kramer, senior Vederian Lowe, and senior Alex Palczewski. The four have combined for 125 career starts. Illinois has the highest rated returning offensive line in the Big Ten according to Pro Football Focus.

Oct. 23 is the latest start date in Illinois football history. The previous latest start date was Oct. 19, 1907 (L, 42-6 vs. Chicago).  Illinois is 2-10 all-time against Wisconsin teams ranked in the AP Poll.

Why Bet on Wisconsin? | 2020 NCAAF Expert Analysis

The defending Big Ten West Division champion Badgers enter the 2020 season following a 10-4 finish that included a berth in the Rose Bowl last season. Wisconsin seeks its 5th Big Ten West Division title in 7 years of the league’s current divisional alignment.

The Badgers open their 6th season under the leadership of head coach Paul Chryst, who is 52-16 (.765) as head coach at his alma mater. The two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year has led the Badgers to a 34-10 (.773) conference record.

The Badgers lost record-setting running back Jonathan Taylor and won’t have QB Jack Coan for the foreseeable future. He had foot surgery earlier this month. The possibilities for his return are unclear, but with an eight-game schedule and no bye weeks, he likely won’t be playing much, if at all. As a junior, Coan completed 70% of his attempts last year with a 165.9 passer rating in Wisconsin’s 10 wins, but he registered a 125 rating in the Badgers’ four losses.

Also gone are 900-yard receiver Quintez Cephus, as well as All-American center Tyler Biadasz. No matter who the new primary back is — sophomore Nakia Watson, senior Garrett Groshek, blue-chip freshman Jalen Berger or a platoon — the run game will still be good because the Wisconsin run game is always good. That’s because the offensive line is always good.

The Badgers return 8 starters on a defensive unit that finished the 2019 campaign ranked 4th nationally in total defense (287.1 ypg) and 10th in scoring defense (16.9 ppg).

Wisconsin hasn’t opened a season with a Big Ten opponent since taking on Michigan to begin the 1982 campaign. The last season-opener vs. a Big Ten foe at Camp Randall was the Badgers’ 21-14 win over the No. 1-ranked Wolverines in 1981. Wisconsin has opened a season by taking on Illinois just once, a 14-5 defeat on Oct. 26, 1907.

Game Trends

Fighting Illini are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 conference games.
  • Over is 5-0 in Badgers last 5 games as a favorite.
  • Fighting Illini are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 meetings in Wisconsin.
  • Home team is 4-0 ATS in their last 4 meetings.
  • Over is 4-0 in the last 4 meetings in Wisconsin.

Expert Prediction

Wisconsin 38, Illinois 17
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