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Wisconsin Is One of Illinois’ Least Winnable Games

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The Illini welcome the Badgers to Memorial Stadium in Week 9

NCAA Football: Illinois at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

2016 Final S&P+ Rk: 11

2016 Off. Rk: 49

2016 Def. Rk: 7

In the late fall, the Illinois Fighting Illini will face one of their toughest tests of the season as they welcome the Wisconsin Badgers to Memorial Stadium. Illinois is looking to just be in the conversation to appear in a bowl game in 2017, and Wisconsin is unlikely to be a game that gets them closer to the promised land.

When it comes to Wisconsin, coming off an 11-3 season and a Big Ten Championship game collapse, the Badgers will look to continue their annual showing among the top teams in the Big Ten West.

The silver lining for the Illini could be starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who, while effective at times, saw limited time in his freshman campaign. Bradrick Shaw — the likely starting running back for Wisconsin — logged an average of 5.2 yards per carry in 2016. Shaw will have a solid offensive line to rush behind, likely cementing him among some of the Big Ten rushing leaders.

If Illinois wants to win this game, the defensive line will need to be in tip-top shape, limiting the damage that Shaw is able to do with the help of that offensive line. If the defense is able to limit the effectiveness of the running game and forces Hornibrook to use his arm, Illinois could possibly find a way to win this game and score one of the biggest upsets in recent years.