This game went very similarly to past matchups between Illinois and Wisconsin. The Badgers pounded the ball on the ground and the Illinois (3-7, 2-5 Big Ten) offense couldn’t sustain any drives in a 48-3 victory for Wisconsin (8-2, 5-2).
Jeff George Jr. made his fourth consecutive start and promptly threw four interceptions in the first half while trying to push the ball down the field. He was just 5-of-16 passing for 79 yards and the only player with multiple catches in the first half was Wisconsin safety Leo Musso, who had a pair of picks.
He was then benched for Wes Lunt (remember that guy?) who appeared in his first action since Oct. 8 against Purdue. Lunt didn’t appear to be injured, although he was extremely rusty and Illinois couldn’t get first downs against many of the Badgers’ backups.
Here’s a few things to watch going forward for the rest of the season:
The most compelling storyline for the rest of the season is Lunt vs George
So Wes Lunt is healthy enough to play. Will Lovie Smith and the coaching staff ride the senior for the last two games of his career or continue to play the freshman George? There’s no pros to playing Lunt, other than giving proper respect to a senior on his way out the door. On the other hand, if George continues to the turn the ball over at an alarming rate, then Smith might have no choice but to bench George to preserve his confidence.
The Illinois run defense is porous
Wisconsin isn’t its usual dominating self when it comes to running the ball — the Badgers entered the game 57th in the country in rushing yards — but they had no issue running the ball Saturday. Two backs topped the century mark, and Wisconsin had nearly 400 yards on the ground. This Illinois defense is young, and its inexperienced showed by taking poor angles that led to long Wisconsin runs.