The Daily Illini

Matchups to watch in Illinois-Wisconsin game

By Masaki Sugimoto

Wes Lunt vs. Wisconsin defense.

Wes Lunt has a tall order to fill on Homecoming against the Badgers. Wisconsin’s defense gives up around 11 points per game, led by linebacker Joe Schobert, who ranks second in the conference with 9.5 sacks. Freshman linebacker T.J. Edwards had 16 tackles against Purdue to get the Badgers one game away from bowl eligibility. The Illini’s task isn’t any easier with Josh Ferguson questionable for Saturday and Mike Dudek unlikely to return this season. Lunt showed that he knows how to stay competitive in games, but if he wins this one, he can get students, fans, alumni and hopefully some scouts really invested in him and the team.

Illinois front seven vs. Wisconsin rushers

The Illini defense simply could not stop Iowa’s running back Jordan Canzeri, allowing him to rush for 270 yards on the way to a 29-20 Hawkeye victory. Illinois’ defense needs to show its improved statistics from last season are not just a non-conference fluke. If running back Corey Clement may finally be making his long awaited return for the Badgers, which would spell bad news for the Illini. Last season, as Melvin Gordon’s backup, Clement ran all over the Illini, rushing 13 times for 165 yards and one score. But, if Clement remains sidelined, the Illini will be in for a good day. The Illinois defensive line showed some flashes of great play against Iowa and Wisconsin has been shifting around its offensive line this season. The biggest key for the Illini will be forcing turnovers.

Illinois vs. falling out of favor

Illinois was presented with a chance to take a top spot in the conference and contend for the Big Ten West title before its loss against Iowa, who seems to have a firm grasp on the title. This game against Wisconsin presents another turning point. The Illini can hang tight in the race for the No. 2 spot in the West with the win and can get some real momentum going. But if Illinois loses, the season’s outlook will change. Up to this point, Cubit has established enthusiasm for the direction of this team. But Purdue is the only game remaining on Illinois’ schedule that is a lock for a win. The Illini would need to win one of their other four games — at Penn State or Minnesota, against Ohio State at home or in Chicago against Northwestern. Some of those games are winnable but none are guaranteed.

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@MasakiSugimoto

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