Odd as it is, this matchup between Illinois and Wisconsin will mark the season opener for each team. In an odd 2020, add “playing your first game of the season in late October” to the list of things. But, it promises to be an exciting Big Ten battle for both teams as they kick things off.
After finishing with a losing record a year ago, Lovie Smith is hoping for some better results for his Illinois team in 2020. They were a competitive bunch that cannot deliver in the big moments a season ago.
If that doesn’t change, it will likely be a repeat of last year’s 6-7 team. They are capable and have an excellent coach. It would be nice to see them win.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, went 10-4 a year ago and finished ranked #11 in the final AP Poll at season’s end. They opened up this season as the #14 team, where they still stand, the record not yet touched by gameplay. Paul Chryst will hope to have the Badgers playing in the Big Ten Championship when it is all said and done.
The spread for Friday night’s game favors Wisconsin by 19.5 points. The over/under is set at 51.5.
Illinois Searches for Upset to Begin Year
There won’t be too many betting folks staking claims of confidence in the Fighting Illini. So perhaps, that right there is their motivation. They are underdogs by roughly three touchdowns, so even a close game would seem to be a potential surprise.
Brandon Peters is back for another year under center, now in his grad year. Peters led the team a season ago with 1,884 yards and 18 TD passes while tossing eight interceptions. He rushed for an additional 213 yards and three touchdowns. He’s got no problem getting the ball into the end zone.
The running back group is a bit different with Dre Brown and Reggie Corbin, but Chase Brown and Mike Epstein will need to be ready. Illinois needs to move the football down the field consistently.
Wisconsin Looks to Open Season with a Bang
Playing a team like Illinois to open the year should bode well for Wisconsin. This is a highly talented group that has championship expectations. Without a College Football playoff in 2020, they need to make sure they still capture gold and win the Big Ten.
With Jonathan Taylor now running for big yards with the Colts in the NFL, they turn to Garrett Groshek, who had 194 yards on 42 carries last year. Taylor had 2,000 yards and 21 rushing scores, plus five more receiving. Huge cleats to fill for Groshek.
They’ve got a redshirt freshman QB in Graham Mertz, a grad of Blue Valley North High School. This will be his first time starting a game under the lights at the college level. Let’s see how he does. Can he lead as Jack Coan did in 2019?
Fighting Illini Doesn’t Get Blown Out
The game won’t be as big of a blowout as expected. Illinois will fight hard to make sure the long wait to opening night is worth it.
FREE PLAY: ILLINOIS +19.5
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