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TCR Staff predicts ugly Homecoming game for Illinois

Can the 26-point underdogs even cover against Wisconsin?

NCAA Football: Illinois at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Cohn: Wisconsin 40, Illinois 21

Maybe I’m just a sick, sick person, but I have a feeling Illinois covers Saturday afternoon during Homecoming weekend on a nationally televised game. See what I’m going for? If this team plays anything like it did against Minnesota and the coaching staff learns how to use two quarterbacks at once, the Illini may play somewhat competitive at least for a half before rolling over in the fourth quarter. While no game certainly feels big right now for the program because of the continual losing and relatively uncompetitive play, staying close with the No. 5 team in the nation may pay dividends for this team’s psyche and recruiting down the road.

Thumpasaurus: Wisconsin 52, Illinois 14

Two garbage-time touchdowns on hurry-up drives led by Jeff George Jr do little to encourage a heavily outmatched Fighting Illini squad as they concede over 200 yards on the ground to Jonathan Taylor by getting completely mauled by the Wisconsin offensive line. A stout defense creates numerous 2nd-and-long situations for the Illinois offense, which struggles to move the ball. This will be a bloodbath that harkens back to 2005. I’ll consider this a win if we don’t get any more season-ending injuries to true freshman contributors.

Michael Berns: Wisconsin 42, Illinois 8

It’s hard to believe Paul Chryst has only been the head coach at Wisconsin for three years now. In his previous two games against Illinois, Wisconsin’s outscored the Illini 72-16. Wisconsin has a tendency to play down to their level of competition. That wasn’t the case last week in the Badgers’ 38-13 win over Maryland. Expect Wisconsin to pour it on early to quiet the Homecoming Illini crowd before taking the foot off of the gas in the second half. Much like Illinois did last year against Michigan, the Illini get a garbage time touchdown and 2-point conversion in the waning minutes of the game.

Mark Schaer: Wisconsin 37, Illinois 13

This isn’t a difficult one to predict. Wisconsin is exactly the type of team that can expose the weaknesses of the Illini defense. In the last two Big Ten games, Illinois has given up 566 yards on the ground - to Rutgers and Minnesota, two teams with a combined three Big Ten victories so far. Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor is going to run right up the gut and burn the rush defense of the Illini. Expect Taylor to have at least 150 yards on the ground and for Alex Hornibrook to take advantage of some play action passing on a young secondary as well. Cam Thomas will run for a touchdown, but Wisconsin’s defense will cause a pair of turnovers (one of which, I am expecting, will come from a Jeff George pick).

Austin Jabs: Wisconsin 48, Illinois 10

With a young run defense that is still learning how to defend the run in the Big Ten and a pass defense that is still learning how to defend the pass and a young….you get the point. Wisconsin will spoil the Homecoming festivities for the Fighting Illini this year, as they bring in a seasoned squad to go up against a terribly young Illinois team that is still learning the ropes. The future may be bring for this young squad, as witnessed in some games this season, but right now, Lovie Smith’s team will get plenty of reps in on Saturday. Hopefully, Cam Thomas will see the field for a good portion of the game and some of these young playmakers will get the chance to get some good in game experience this weekend.

Sean Cler: Wisconsin 38, Illinois 3

There is a very very slim chance in my opinion that the Illini get into the end zone this game. I think we can get within sniffing distance and hit a field goal but this Wisconsin defense is just too tough. Without our prolific freshman Mike Epstein this offense is going to look stagnant. You can expect Cam Thomas to get a lion’s share of the snaps under center but a freshman QB against this Badger front seven doesn’t bode well for the orange and blue. On the other side of the ball Illinois’ run defense has been poor and Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor is going to run amok through this injury stunted linebacking crew.

Matt O’Neall: Wisconsin 56, Illinois 6

This is going to be really bad. I hope if you’re going, you have really good tailgating weather, and get to catch up with old classmates on Homecoming Weekend. As for what happens on the field, if Wisconsin punts once I will be pretty surprised. Jonathon Taylor has Heisman hopes, and Wisconsin has College Football Playoff hopes, which means I don’t expect to see their offense let up much at all on the young Illini defense. I think we all want to see Cam Thomas with an expanded role at QB going forward, but don’t hold anything that happens this week against him. Wisconsin has one of the best defenses in the country, and if they know we want to run it every play, that makes it really easy for them. Wisco by 50. Happy Homecoming.

Ian Gold: Wisconsin 45, Illinois 13

This one's going to look like the first half of the big Cowboy’s game in Little Giants. The Icebox can’t be found and spike (Jonathan Taylor) is going to run absolutely wild, trampling the poor Illini defense stampede style. I don’t see any way Illinois slows down the Wisconsin offense and makes this one interesting. Most teams have made the mistake of attempting to pass, Wisconsin might see if they can win without attempting a single pass. Make sure to temporarily block your Wisconsin friends from your phones, it’s going to be messy.