There are two very different ways to look at this game:
- The Illini are .500 right now and just finished a stretch of four games, with three of them against Top-25 teams. They will all likely finish the season in the Top 25 and will go to decent bowl games. Illinois has a pretty difficult schedule, and everyone knew the Wisconsin run game was going to shred up our defense. Nothing about what happened Saturday was shocking.
- We haven't won a Big Ten football game since October 2011. Tim Banks has completely lost this defensive unit. The Wisconsin run game absolutely destroyed the secondary. Open field tackles are seemingly impossible to make. This team will not go bowling in 2013 if it continues to perform like this.
The point being that the result of this game was expected. But it was still ugly to watch regardless.
1. The offense was still kind of encouraging. Wisconsin gives up 13.2 points per game, and the Illini had 32 (39 if Aaron Bailey reaches a few more inches). This was the Badgers' worst defensive performance of the season; they held Northwestern to two FGs a week ago. The Illinois offense put up just shy of 400 yards against a defense that averages 285 yards against per game. Sure, some of it was in garbage time, but most of the game was garbage time for that matter. This offense under Bill Cubit still has signs of life.
2. Illinois didn't lay down. Last year, if this team had trailed 21-0 six minutes into the game, that would have been it. Game over. Now they at least fight back. In the second quarter Illinois outscored the Badgers 17-7 and went into the locker room with momentum. They were still in the game. It slipped away in the third quarter, sure, but the point is the Fighting Illini were fighting the whole time.
3. Aaron Bailey looks very good. He decided to actually throw a football for once Saturday night, and faked out the Badger defense for a nice touchdown. He nearly got another one on the ground. I think there is no need to worry once Nathan Scheelhaase leaves Champaign. Wes Lunt and Aaron Bailey under Bill Cubit will be competent options at quarterback. I like what I've seen so far from the Bailer.
1. The defense. I mean, what more do I have to say? The only thing worse than being an Illinois defensive player in the film room this week would be being an Indiana defensive player in the film room this week (they gave up nearly 800 yards of offense and 63 points to Michigan). The Illini didn't force a turnover the entire game against Wisconsin. The tackling was, once again, incredibly sloppy and the pass rush was all but non-existent. Banks might not have a job at the end of the season ends if he doesn't do something, and do something now.
2. V'Angelo Bentley left the game only a few minutes after it started with a bad leg injury and was seen wearing a walking boot on the sideline. There have yet to be any further developments on the extent of his injury, but hopefully it's nothing too serious; he was an asset in the return game for Illinois, and Ryan Lankford did not look good returning kickoffs Saturday.
3. The next four games for Illinois are vs. Michigan State, at Penn State, at Indiana and vs. Ohio State. Now take that dismal defensive effort from Saturday night and apply it to these four games ... is there one win in there? Maybe Indiana, but the Hoosiers put up nearly 50 points against Michigan on Saturday. At this rate, who the hell knows when that next Big Ten win will come?
Prediction Revisited: I went with Wisconsin 35, Illinois 17. Both teams had more inflated offenses than I might have figured.
Prediction in Advance: I still think that this Michigan State game has the potential to be an Illini win, but with this type of defensive effort... I doubt it. I'll go with Michigan State 21, Illinois 18.