UI-Wisconsin: 5 keys
Will Nathan Scheelhaase air it out again?
The Illini are hoping he doesn’t have to. In last week’s loss to Penn State, the junior quarterback set career highs for completions (28) and attempts (46). The high volume of throws was the result of getting down early, and Illinois is hoping not to be in that position today. When the three-year starter puts the ball up 25 or more times, the Illini are 2-6.
Will the Badgers be reeling from the loss to Nebraska in the Big Ten opener?
Probably not. Only once under Bret Bielema have the Badgers started Big Ten play with consecutive losses. That was the 2008 season when they opened 0-4 in conference play. Since Bielema took over in 2006, Wisconsin has lost its Big Ten opener three times. In 2006 and 2010, the Badgers lost their first conference game only to go on to win the remaining seven on the schedule. Illinois, in turn, has started 0-2 five times in the last 10 seasons, most recently in 2005 when it started 0-5.
Will there be more youth on the UI defense?
It’s possible, if the injuries keep mounting. Tim Beckman said last week was the first time he can remember playing two true freshmen together at inside linebacker, using Mason Monheim and Mike Svetina against Penn State in the second half after Jonathan Brown went down with an ankle injury. Brown is expected to start today, but if he has to come out, Svetina will be back out there. Monheim has impressed in his first season. The Big Ten Freshman of the Week is third to Ashante Williams (34 tackles) and Brown (29) on the team with 28 stops, and his two forced fumbles are tied for tops in the Big Ten.
Can Illinois stop Jared Abbrederis?
It’s possible. Nebraska provided the blueprint in the second half last week, double-teaming the junior after the Big Ten’s leading receiver torched it for a couple of big plays early. Abbrederis leads the league, averaging 99 yards per game, but the Badgers have few big-play threats aside from the former walk-on. Tight end Jacob Pedersen is second on the team with nine receptions, and Jordan Fredrick is the only other player with more than 100 yards receiving (102).
Is it good to get away from home?
The Illinois players have acknowledged that it’s been tough watching fans head toward the exits in the second half of the last two blowout losses, but the road might not be any more kind to the Illini. Illinois has lost four consecutive true road games and is 2-7 in its last nine games on an opponent’s home field. The last win was a 41-20 triumph at Indiana last season that put Illinois at 6-0.