HQ prediction: Wisconsin 35, UI 21
2 Nathan Scheelhaase 6-3 205 Sr. Kansas City, Mo.
2 Joel Stave 6-5 225 Soph. Greenfield, Wis.
Edge: Illinois. Scheelhaase is 73 of 97 for 1,006 yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions in Chamapign this season. In the two games away from the venue he is most familiar with, he is only 22 of 51 for 291 yards, one TD and two INTs. Stave and Scheelhaase enter Saturday’s game with identical passing yardage totals (1,247), but Stave has had one more game to accomplish those numbers. And better personnel surrounds him. The question surrounding Scheelhaase is how well he can play against superior competition. He excelled against Southern Illinois, Miami (Ohio) and Cincinnati but struggled against Top 25 teams in Washington and Nebraska. Another Top 25 team arrives Saturday. Will he continue his trend of playing well against mediocre competition and lackluster against quality teams?
6 Josh Ferguson 5-10 195 Soph. Naperville
20 James White 5-10 195 Sr. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
34 Derek Watt 6-2 231 Soph. Pewaukee, Wis.
Edge: Wisconsin. By far. Watt likely won’t get a carry Saturday, but the fullback sure has to love blocking for talents like White and Melvin Gordon. Gordon is third in the country in rushing yards (870) and has eight rushing TDs. White is among the top 25 rushing leaders in the nation (574 rushing yards, five TDs). Wisconsin’s third-string running back, true freshman Cory Clement, has more rushing yards (353) than Ferguson (310). Wisconsin has had at least two 100-yard rushers in eight of its last 14 games. With Illinois having trouble stopping the run this season against the likes of Bishop Sankey and Ameer Abdullah, the Badgers should feel confident about adding to that accomplishment in Champaign.
12 Ryan Lankford 6-0 175 Sr. Jacksonville, Fla.
8 Miles Osei 6-0 195 Sr. Mount Prospect
80 Spencer Harris 6-3 205 Sr. Greenwood, Ark.
4 Jared Abbrederis 6-2 190 Sr. Wautoma, Wis.
9 Jordan Fredrick 6-4 210 Soph. Madison, Wis.
Edge: Wisconsin. The type of season Abbrederis is having has helped ease concerns about Stave’s throwing ability. The fifth-year senior and former walk-on has nearly half of the Badgers’ receiving yards (635 and five touchdowns). He is expected to play after suffering a head injury against Northwestern that forced him to leave the game after he had already compiled two catches for 74 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown reception. It’s hard to believe he initially started his career as the scout team quarterback. Fredrick (eight catches, 86 yards) doesn’t come close to Abbrederis’ production, but Stave could look to him on key third-down situations. Lankford needs to look like the wide receiver he was the first month of the season. If Scheelhaase is able to spread the ball around to Lankford, Osei, Harris and Martize Barr, it should bode well for the Illini, but they don’t have the go-to wide receiver like Wisconsin does.
3 Jon Davis 6-3 240 Jr. Louisville, Ky.
48 Jacob Pedersen 6-5 240 Sr. Menominee, Wis.
85 Brian Wozniak 6-4 255 Sr. Loveland, Ohio
Edge: Illinois. Pedersen, a Mackey Award semifinalist, has 12 receptions for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Davis, Evan Wilson and Matt LaCosse weren’t much of a factor against Nebraska, but Illinois will still target the trio — as it should. The most important contributions by the Illinois trio might not have much to do with any passes they haul in. Wisconsin blitzed Northwestern frequently, an area Illinois had trouble adapting to at Nebraska. Look for Wilson and Davis to possibly help out the offensive line and Scheelhaase more in picking up those blitzes than running routes. Davis, Wilson and LaCosse are all capable pass catchers the Badgers linebackers and secondary will have to concern themselves with.
68 Simon Cvijanovic 6-5 310 Jr. Cleveland
74 Michael Heitz 6-5 305 Jr. Vermont
52 Alex Hill 6-3 315 Jr. Slidell, La.
69 Ted Karras 6-4 300 Soph. Indianapolis
70 Corey Lewis 6-6 315 Sr. Cresco, Pa.
61 Tyler Marz 6-5 321 Soph. Springfield, Minn.
79 Ryan Groy 6-5 320 Sr. Middleton, Wis.
73 Dallas Lewallen 6-6 322 Jr. Berlin, Wis.
54 Kyle Costigan 6-5 315 Jr. Wind Lake, Wis.
78 Rob Havenstein 6-8 327 Jr. Mount Airy, Md.
Edge: Wisconsin. This was a group that probably didn’t know quite what to expect when Gary Andersen replaced Bret Bielema. But the Badgers sure look like they have for about the last 20 years or so. Gordon and White are able to run through huge holes. Stave hasn’t had to run for his life on too many plays, but he has been sacked eight times, including five times in the last two games. Illinois hasn’t fared as poorly as the numbers may suggest. Yes, Illinois is in the bottom third in the country in sacks allowed (13), but not all of them are the fault of the offensive line, although they will bear the brunt of the blame.
59 Tim Kynard 6-3 270 Sr. Toledo, Ohio
95 Jake Howe 6-3 300 Jr. McHenry
44 Austin Teitsma 6-2 290 Jr. Glen Ellyn
55 Houston Bates 6-3 250 Jr. Covington, La.
92 Pat Muldoon 6-3 269 Sr. Mason, Ohio
96 Beau Allen 6-3 325 Sr. Minnetonka, Minn.
87 Ethan Hemer 6-6 285 Sr. Medford, Wis.
Edge: Wisconsin. Whereas Illinois has a dearth of defensive linemen that are able to get to the quarterback and take him down, the Badgers have multiple options. Muldoon and Hemer each have 1.5 sacks while backup nose guard Warren Herring leads the team in sacks with three. That’s double the amount the Illinois defensive linemen have managed to accumulate. Kynard has one sack and Bates has half a sack, and both came more than a month ago. Wisconsin’s offensive line isn’t as hard to break through as Nebraska’s, with the Badgers giving up eight sacks on the year. But Stave most likely won’t have to worry too much about getting hit hard by the Illinois defensive line.
45 Jonathan Brown 6-1 230 Sr. Memphis, Tenn.
43 Mason Monheim 6-1 235 Soph. Orrville, Ohio
34 Mike Svetina 6-2 230 Soph. Brunswick, Ohio
36 Ethan Armstrong 6-2 225 Sr. Ottawa
44 Chris Borland 5-11 246 Sr. Kettering, Ohio
30 Derek Landisch 6-0 230 Jr. Nashotah, Wis.
97 Brendan Kelly 6-6 255 Sr. Eden Prairie, Minn.
Edge: Even. Brown is the most prolific tackler in the Big Ten. He will likely get plenty of chances to accomplish his fifth game this year of having at least 10 tackles. Svetina and Eric Finney are splitting time almost equally at the STAR position, while the missed tackles Monheim has had this year have gnawed at him. Wisconsin’s linebackers are a veteran group, led by Borland. The All-Big Ten performer the last three years has a team-high 56 tackles, more than double that of the next Badger. Illinois will have to protect the football when No. 44 is near as he is well-known for his ability to force fumbles. Armstrong will have the added incentive of playing in front of more family and friends that make the two-hour drive down from Ottawa.
2 V’Angelo Bentley 5-10 190 Soph. Cleveland
9 Earnest Thomas 6-2 210 Jr. Orchard Lake, Mich.
3 Taylor Barton 6-1 215 Fr. Orlando, Fla.
27 Eaton Spence 6-0 185 Soph. Belle Glade, Fla.
8 Sojourn Shelton 5-9 172 Fr. Fort Lauderdala, Fla.
12 Dezmen Southward 6-2 210 Sr. Sunrise, Fla.
7 Michael Caputo 6-1 206 Soph. Imperial, Pa.
21 Peniel Jean 5-11 187 Jr. West Palm Beach, Fla.
Edge: Wisconsin. Shelton was worrying about the Florida high school state playoffs at this time last year. Now he’s the cornerback opposing quarterbacks worry about in the Big Ten. He has a team-high three interceptions, six deflections and a forced fumble. Thomas is coming off an 11-tackle game against Nebraska and forced a fumble. But he, like much of the Illinois defense, needs to take better angles in pursuing whoever has the football. The Illinois secondary is still young and hasn’t proven much this season against ranked teams, other than getting burned repeatedly. What better time to quell the doubters than during a night home game?
17 Taylor Zalewski (K, KO) 6-3 220 Soph. Orland Park
18 Justin DuVernois (P) 6-1 190 Jr. Plantation, Fla.
54 Zach Hirth (LS) 6-4 220 Fr. Eureka, Mo.
86 Tim Russell (Holder) 6-6 235 Sr. St. Charles
2 V’Angelo Bentley (KR, PR) 5-10 190 Soph. Cleveland
8 Miles Osei (KR, PR) 6-0 200 Sr. Mount Prospect
97 Jack Russell (K) 6-0 172 Soph. Waunakee, Wis.
85 Andrew Endicott (KO) 5-9 166 Fr. Roseville, Calif.
90 Drew Meyer (P, Holder) 6-3 185 Soph. Hartland, Wis.
56 James McGuire (LS punts) 6-1 216 Jr. St. Paul, Minn.
60 Connor Udelhoven (LS FGs) 5-11 223 Fr. St. Paul, Minn.
3 Kenzel Doe (KR, PR) 5-8 170 Jr. Reidsville, N.C.
27 Kyle Zuleger (KR) 5-11 192 Sr. Appleton, Wis.
4 Jared Abbrederis (PR) 6-2 190 Sr. Wautoma, Wis.
Edge: Illinois. About the only uncertainty in Madison is who will reliably kick field goals. Kyle French has primarily had the job, but it appears Russell will handle those duties against Illinois. French is 5 of 8, the same mark as Zalewski, but missed a 38-yard attempt against Northwestern. Russell kicked the final three extra points. Russell is 0 for 1 on field goal tries, so preventing the Badgers from getting into the end zone could produce some interesting situations. Bentley is fifth in the country in kickoff return average (32.1) and first in the Big Ten. He is equally effective on punt returns (15.8 yards), which is good for third in the Big Ten and 10th nationally. A few big returns could go a long way in giving Illinois a boost on Saturday.
Tim Beckman At UI (5-12) Overall (26-28)
Gary Andersen At Wisconsin (4-2) Overall (34-33)
Edge: Wisconsin. Andersen is nine points (and a controversial call at Arizona) away from an undefeated start to his Wisconsin tenure. He kept the Badgers close at Ohio State until late and his teams have been downright impressive at Camp Randall. Saturday’s atmosphere won’t compare to what they faced in Columbus or Tempe. Beckman and Andersen are friends, with the two having a common mentor in Urban Meyer. Andersen was on Meyer’s staff at Utah, and Beckman worked with the Ohio State coach at Bowling Green. Both Beckman and Andersen were friendly at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, with each coach seeking out the other to catch up and talk about their respective summers. Andersen seems like a smart choice to replace Bret Bielema, and right now he has a more talented cast of players around him than Beckman does.
The last two times Illinois has beaten the Badgers in Champaign, it has led to memorable seasons. The 31-26 win against Wisconsin in 2007 catapulted Illinois to the Rose Bowl, while the 42-35 triumph in 2001 sparked a run to the Sugar Bowl. No such luck this year. Wisconsin has too much of a balanced offense and too stout a defense for Gary Andersen to lose his first game at Memorial Stadium. Most will expect the Badgers to deliver a blowout like the ones Wisconsin has put on Northwestern and Purdue this season, but Illinois feeds off the atmosphere and playing under the lights in Champaign. At least in the first half, before Wisconsin’s physical offensive line, plus the combination of Gordon and White, wear down Illinois, which will head into homecoming week on a two-game losing streak after a 35-21 loss. (N-G record: 4-1)