It’s a gut-check game tomorrow for Wisconsin Football. The Badgers will hit the road to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini. After a brutal home showing last week that resulted in a 15-6 loss to Iowa, Wisconsin now has little to no more room for error if they want a realistic shot at the Big Ten West title.
The Illini are coming off a stunning 27-24 road upset win at Maryland last week. Otherwise, it’s been a struggle for Bret Bielema and the 2-4 Illini after a successful 2022 season. The Badgers are seen a 2.5 point favorites. Kick-off is 2:30 PM. Here is a preview of tomorrow’s game.
Time to See What Wisconsin Football Has in Brayden Locke
After Tanner Mordecai suffered a broken hand last week, it’s essentially a six game tryout for redshirt freshman Brayden Locke. Locke, who was recruited by Phil Longo when Longo was at North Carolina, won the backup quarterback job early in spring. The 15-30 stat line won’t wow most fans, but after four straight incompletions to start, Locke did settle in a played a nice third quarter.
On the other hand, the coaching staff will get to see if they have their future quarterback or if they have to potentially go back into the portal this off-season. Locke is going to have to make throws throughout this game, but I would expect high percentage throws early to get him slowly involved in the offense
The Offensive Line Needs to Answer the Challenge
Statically, the Wisconsin Football offensive line has not been bad this year. However, I think the running ability of Tanner Mordecai has bailed them out to a point. Last week, the offensive line got their lunch handed to them by the Iowa defensive line. It won’t be much easier tomorrow as Illinois has two stud defensive linemen in Jer’Zhan Newton and Keith Randolph. If they make life tough on this offensive line, it could be a rough day for them and for Locke.
This is a better offensive line than what the Badgers have put on the field to this point. The coaching change and new offensive system plays some part in that and I get that. However, it seems like through six games they still haven’t been able to put it all together. The loss of Jake Renfroe at center is still being felt. This is a game Jack Nelson, Joe Huber, Tanor Bortolini, Michael Furtney, and Riley Mahlmann have to win at the line of scrimmage.
It’s important to know everything is still in front of this team even though they need a lot of help and likely only have room for one more loss. That’s how damaging of a loss it was to Iowa last week. A win in that game and the Badgers own essentially a three game lead over the Hawkeyes. With Iowa’s easy schedule the rest of the way, Wisconsin Football need to go on a run and they need to go on it now.
The vibe around Wisconsin Football social media has been that the season is over. It’s not over, but it’s going to take some things to go the Badgers way. They can’t overlook Illinois. They have to run the ball and establish this game on the defensive side.
I am in the camp that is optimistic about Brayden Locke. The stats last week against Iowa won’t wow you but Wisconsin Football showed the most promise outside the first drive with him in the game. He’s not afraid to sling the ball and reads defenses very well. This is essentially a six game try out for the redshirt freshman.
The good news? Wisconsin Football shouldn’t overlook the Illini because they can’t. If they were coming off an Iowa win, there’s a chance of that with Ohio State looming next weekend in Madison. The Badgers had a golden opportunity last week and did nothing with it. They can’t afford to lose a trap game like this.
Because of that, I like Wisconsin Football to escape here. They know what they need to do. I think this will be a low-scoring game, but I think the defense forces Luke Altmyer into some bad decisions and forces a few turnovers. I think Wisconsin wins this game on the ground and pulls away in the fourth quarter.
Wisconsin 24 Illinois 17
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