Wisconsin Badgers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Pick 10/9/21
Wisconsin Badgers (1-3 SU, 1-3 ATS) v. Illinois Fighting Illini (2-4 SU, 3-2-1 ATS)
NCAA Football Week 6
When: Saturday, October 9 at 3:30p ET
Where: Memorial Stadium - Champaign, IL
Watch: Big Ten Network
Point Spread: WISC -10/ILL +10 (Intertops - Sign up through our special link and use bonus code ROOKIE200 to receive a 200% bonus on your 25% deposit!)
Over/Under Total: 42
Old friends make the worst enemies. That concept will be put to the test this weekend when Wisconsin heads to Illinois to take on the Illini and former UW coach, Bret Bielema. It was a less than pleasant parting of ways when Bielema announced his move to Arkansas just days after Wisconsin won the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game, and the animosity in Madison has not cooled over the last nine years. This will be the first road game for the struggling Badgers, and they are dealing with some high-profile injuries as they dive into the heart of their division schedule. Wisconsin has made a bowl game in nineteen straight seasons but is running the risk of that streak coming to an end if Illinois can get another upset as they did in 2019.
Wisconsin is 2-7 against the spread in their last nine overall but has a 14-6 ATS mark in the previous 20 when favored on the road. The Badgers are riding a six-game ATS losing streak inside the Big Ten and have a 2-6 record against the spread when playing with a losing record. Illinois is 5-2 ATS in the last seven following a straight-up win and also 5-2 ATS against Wisconsin at home. The under has paid in each of the previous four Illini games overall and five of the last six Badger games against a Big Ten opponent. The under is 4-1 in the previous five meetings at Memorial Stadium.
Bad to Worse
Wisconsin is off to its worst start since the 1990 season, and nearly all of the blame lies on the offensive side of the ball. The Badgers rank 100th in total yards and 117th in points at 18.5 per game. The issues are primarily with the offensive line, as the normally solid front has struggled with run and pass blocking. The pass protection failures got to QB Graham Mertz last week, and he is questionable for Saturday with injured ribs. Chase Wolf could get the start in relief, and while he is a capable scrambler, he is also short on experience with just 17 career pass attempts. A typical Wisconsin running game could probably cover for a backup QB, but Chez Mellusi is averaging just 4.4 yards per carry on the season, and the home run play has been absent all season. TE Jake Ferguson could also miss the contest with a chest injury, leaving Wolf without a good outlet or red zone target. The UW defense has been phenomenal even as games have slipped away from them late. Wisconsin ranks 3rd in total yards allowed and 1st in rushing defense, allowing just 45 yards per game.
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A Rivalry Begins
This series has heavily favored Wisconsin since the Alvarez era began, and the Badgers have won nine of the last ten. The addition of Bielema will add juice to this pairing, especially if the former UW coach can get a win against his old team, and this is one of the closest games on paper in a long time. The Illini got off to a great start with a win against Nebraska but have floundered on offense since, losing four in a row before last week’s 24-14 win against Charlotte. Illinois ran the ball 48 times against the 49ers while passing for just 78 yards, but that cannot be the game plan this weekend with Wisconsin so stout against the run. Illinois does have a stable of backs to try with Chase Brown and Josh McCray over 300 yards on the season. Brandon Peters is completing less than 50% of his passes for one touchdown against one interception but is in line for the start and is the better fit for Bielema’s play-action pass scheme. The Illinois defense has given up a lot through the air - almost 300 yards per game - but has been better against the run and has gotten some pressure with Owen Carney leading the way with four sacks. Two defensive backs lead the team in tackles, and while that isn’t usually the best sign for a defense, the Illini have created nine turnovers in six games to help them stay competitive, even in their losses.
Take the Ten and Illinois at Home
Bret Bielema will undoubtedly have his team ready to go against his former team and offensive coordinator, but Wisconsin should also be fired up as this is getting to be must-win territory for them. Expect Illinois to play slow and frustrate Wisconsin into making some mistakes. That was the winning formula in 2019 when Illinois got the win despite being outgained and losing the time of possession battle by nearly twenty minutes. They made the Badgers kick field goals and made one big play in the fourth quarter that led to a touchdown before kicking a game-winning field goal as time expired. Brandon Peters was the QB, and he knows how well “just enough” can work. Look for a field position game with penalties or turnovers being critical for both teams. Wisconsin has played a much tougher schedule, and I expect them to move the ball better than they have against Notre Dame and Michigan, but it is also doubtful that Chase Wolf is going to put up big numbers. Wisconsin will feel good on the ride home after a 20-14 win, but Illinois is the proper bet getting the ten.
Ted Walker’s Pick to Cover the Spread: Illinois Fighting illini. Bet your week 6 college football picks for FREE by taking advantage of a 100% REAL CASH bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $500 at GTBets!
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