Welp. After a horrid loss to Purdue, the Illinois Fighting Illini will hit the road as they're set to take on the Wisconsin Badgers. Do the Illini have what it takes to capture an upset win at Camp Randall? Probably not, but only time will tell. Let's give a warm welcome to Andrew Rosin of Bucky's 5th Quarter as he joins us to preview the game.
1. The Badgers currently have a winning record at 3-2, but they're coming off a tough loss to Northwestern. What were your expectations coming into the year? Also, do you think we'll see Wisconsin in Indy later this year?
Most Badger fans saw a senior-laden offensive line and two quality running backs and a schedule that looked as easy as this one did and thought 10 wins. That said, the offense has struggled against teams with lesser talent on the defensive side of the ball and the play of Tanner McEvoy has been the ultimate in square pegging a round hole. On talent alone, I think the Badgers still have a great chance to get to Indianapolis. It just feels like they're going to have do it with an offensive scheme that doesn't play up to its talent.
2. Melvin Gordon has lived up to the preseason hype as he's rushed for nearly 900 yards and 9 TDs thus far. Do you think it's even possible for Illinois to stop him?
What Melvin Gordon has done in the past two weeks makes me feel like the answer is no; at least when you consider where Illinois' rush defense stands. Gordon has been the only thing working on the offensive side of the ball and, like someone knowing there's an angry mob forming and doing everything in their power to stop it, it's MG3 until MG3 can't go anymore. He's putting the Badgers on his back right now.
3. Who are Wisconsin's other offensive weapons?
I did just say Gordon was the only thing working on the offensive side of the ball and that's sort of true. Alex Erickson's a decent possession guy, but he's not a dominating presence. Corey Clement's talented, but he's not MG3 talented. You can sell everything out in terms of Melvin Gordon right now, and that feels like it would be the proper scheme. Because we have an offensive coordinator who doesn't want to run the coach's offense. That's an issue.
4. Do the Badgers have any players on the defensive side that Illini fans should worry about?
The linebacking corps has replaced three starters without missing a beat. Derek Landisch is the pass-rushing threat out of the bunch, and he will likely dial up a sack or a highlight-reel play. If Marcus Trotter plays, you're likely going to see the smoothest transition from a legend at a position because he's playing Chris Borland's spot. Michael Caputo already has two tackles on the game and you just don't know it yet. Reilly O'Toole will likely complete passes and win hearts with that name, but the linebackers will attack from all sorts of angles and if the defensive line holds up the Badgers will pressure the Illini all day.
5. What's your opinion of Illinois heading into this game? Which players on our side do you view as the biggest threat?
I haven't seen much play from Reilly O'Toole, but with Wes Lunt at the helm this felt like a situation where there was a pretty good offense and an almost theoretical defense. Josh Ferguson's a good player, and Geronimo Allison will likely be the recipient of a big completion for you, but the defense got handled by Purdue. I mean, Zane Petty and Taylor Barton are averaging 9 tackles a game. You don't need a special back to get to the second level on this defense.
6. What's your prediction for Saturday's matchup?
If the Badgers offense doesn't look better that's going to be a bad sign moving forward. Melvin Gordon vs. the 122nd ranked rushing defense is supposed to be a match-up the Badgers crush. Like I said, if the Badgers defensive line is healthy, this becomes a game where the Badgers roll convincingly. As it stands? Wisconsin will win 49-17. Melvin Gordon wins 24-17. (He doesn't kick extra points, after all).
7. Bonus question: I'll actually be traveling to Madison for the game this weekend--I've been there once, but I couldn't check out any restaurants. What's the best food joint in town?
If you're looking for a great burgers and shakes place, I'd suggest you visit Dotty Dumpling's Dowry. Wandos also does that very well. If you're looking for something a littler higher end might I suggest a place like Lombardino's? Great Italian food at Lombardino's.
Thanks to Andrew for taking the time to answer our questions! Make sure to check out Bucky's 5th Quarter for more coverage as we approach Saturday's game.