Staffing issue causes longer lines at Wisconsin Badgers football gates | national
WHO HAS THE ADVANTAGE
When the Badgers have the ball
Much attention this week will be given to the availability of quarterback Graham Mertz, who is questionable after suffering a chest injury in a sack last week against Michigan. Mertz said he will do all he can to train and play this week.
If Mertz can’t make it, junior Chase Wolf would start for the Badgers against an Illinois defense that registered 85 pressures in six games. UW needs more of their offensive line when it comes to pass protection and run blocking. Several linemen and Mertz have said this week’s game plan has more elements to help the line, but they haven’t disclosed what they will look like.
Illinois running back Owen Carney, who has 4½ sacks in his last three games, will challenge UW’s senior tackles to better protect the quarterback than they did at the start of this season. the season.
UW could be in their tight third and fourth ends because Jake Ferguson and Jack Eschenbach are questionable.
Don’t be surprised to see more tailbacks getting involved. UW isn’t pulling enough of his rushed offense – just over 100 yards per game against opponents from Power Five – and might try to get more touches from freshman Braelon Allen as he has the ability to push a bunch to 6 feet 2, 238 pounds.
Also look for wide receiver Chimere Dike to continue getting more stares after making two big catches, including a touchdown, against Michigan.
Edge: To push
When the Illini has the ball
Illinois boasts one of the most seasoned rosters in college football and its offense is littered with players with more than 15 games of experience under their belt. Center Doug Kramer and fellow offensive linemen Verderian Lowe and Alex Palczewski form a unit that looks like what coach Bret Bielema led at UW in form, but not always in office.
Running back Chase Brown has just scored 257 rushing yards against Charlotte, but Illinois, like the Badgers’ other Power Five opponents this season, are using their running game to set up deep passes. Quarterback Brandon Peters has missed time with a shoulder injury this season and has only thrown one touchdown in 3½ games.
Illinois protect the ball well, allowing just four turnovers, but they share a problem with the Badgers offense – inefficient play in the red zone. Illinois have scored in 10 of 16 red zone practices this season; UW scored on 10 of 15 in two fewer games.
The UW defense will need to find ways to get into the backfield and bring down Peters after not registering a sack last week. Peters has decent mobility and racked up rushing gains of 30 and 31 yards against the Badgers last season.
UW’s toughest away game could be Isaiah Williams. The wide receiver who converted from quarterback averages nearly five catches per game and travels many short routes that can be difficult for cornerbacks to fight if they aren’t covered by the press.
Both punters could be active in this game, an under-the-radar showdown between two of the Big Ten’s best. UW’s Andy Vujnovich is fourth in the conference with an average try of 47.7 yards. Blake Hayes of Illinois is averaging 45.8 yards per punt, but 19 of his 38 punters have blocked the opponent inside his 20-yard line and 11 have gone over 50 yards. , tied for most in the league.
Neither team has had much of a return leg to speak of, but Illinois’ advantage with kicker James McCourt (11 of 16 on goals scored this season) was diminished by Collin Larsh’s solid play from UW (6 of 8).
Edge: To push
UW are trying to avoid a 1-4 start for the first time since 1990 and go through the seasons with a three-game losing streak for the first time since 2003-04. UW coach Paul Chryst is 5-1 against Illinois as coach of the Badgers. The Badgers are 10-point favorites but are 1-3 ATS this season.
Illinois haven’t won a Power Five game since their Week 0 loss to Nebraska. Bret Bielema went 37-19 in a conference game as a UW coach, but was 11-29 in SEC games as an Arkansas coach. He’s gone for a 1-2 start in the Big Ten game at Illinois.
THREE KEYS FOR BADGERS
1. Avoid turnovers: It’s trite, but it’s worth mentioning until the Badgers do it on Saturday. UW have 12 turnovers this season, averaging three per game, and face an Illinois defense that has 10 takeaways (1.7 per game) this season. Illinois linebacker Jake Hansen has two forced fumbles in four games this season and 12 forced fumbles in his career. He’s nowhere near matching defensive end Simeon Rice’s program record for career forced fumbles. Thirty of the 74 points the UW defense allowed came on possessions as a result of UW turnover.
2. Involve Dike again: Second-year wide receiver Chimere Dike caught his first two targets of last week’s game for a combined 54 yards and a touchdown. He was only targeted once more – an interrupted capture on a beautiful piece of Daxton Hill, Michigan. UW had a myriad of issues protecting the quarterback against Michigan, but it could help the line by using Dike on some shallow crossing roads and getting the ball out quickly. Dike is one of the team’s best receivers and has only totaled seven touches in four games. This should change quickly.
3. Change the tone: The Badgers have too often looked like a team waiting for the other shoe to drop. Then a positive mood is never recovered when a mistake occurs or the opponent takes the lead. Junior inside linebacker Leo Chenal spoke this week about the importance of maintaining good body language and a better attitude. Do it this week. Illinois is not one of the best teams in college football like the teams the Badgers lost to.
THREE KEYS TO ILLINI
1. Feed Williams: Isaiah Williams is an extremely talented player for Illinois, a UW hasn’t seen much this season. His speed and agility on the edge allow him to make plays that don’t seem to be there at first glance. UW are the strongest up front and will slow down Illini’s rushed attack, so getting Williams’ ball in the flats and letting him try to create yards after the catch may be the smarter plan of attack.
2. Blitz strongly: Owen Carney Jr. is a handful for the Badgers to deal with as an edge rusher, but Michigan managed to halt the UW offense with well-timed blitzes last week. The Wolverines took 10 of 30 losses, according to Pro Football Focus, and totaled six sacks. Illinois should also consider using their defensive backs as blitzers. UW struggled to identify them and block them against Michigan.
3. Win the battle of the special teams: UW special teams have harmed the cause for the past two weeks, and Illinois would be wise not to reciprocate. While goal kicks and punts were once where the Badgers settled for less than average, they’ve executed the kickoffs correctly and have fielded punts this season. Illinois doesn’t have to give up their possessions or their field position with special team errors to pull off the Mini Upset. Remember, Illinois beat a then-unbeaten UW team in 2019 with a 39-yard field goal under pressure.