SOC - Wisconsin 2021
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The thing that's been sticking with me all week is the line. I tweeted about it on Monday. We play Maryland at home and the line is 7 and then we play Wisconsin and the line is 9? That line has now moved to 11, which makes a little more sense, so apparently a lot of bettors agree that Wisconsin -9 feels like free money.
I get that they're 1-3, but those losses are to Penn State, Michigan, and Notre Dame.
I get that their offense is really struggling to far, but they still have loads more talent than we do.
I get that their quarterback is "questionable" and their backup might be getting his first start, and this one gives me the longest pause (what if he's, like, 4-interceptions-terrible?), but still, they have a Wisconsin roster and we don't (yet).
I guess my first thought when it comes to this game is really my only thought when it comes to this game: is Wisconsin really going to start 1-4? There's just no way Wisconsin starts 1-4. You're telling me that Illinois would be 2-2 in the Big Ten and Wisconsin would be 0-3? There's just no way that happens.
This is not to say that I think Wisconsin is Wisconsin this year. There are flaws. This does not look like a Wisconsin team that will contend in the Big Ten West. Rough schedule or no rough schedule, there's a lot of typical Wisconsin things that are missing. But that means I see this as a 7-5 or 8-4 Wisconsin team, not a "start 1-4" Wisconsin team.
Maybe the best way to say that is this. If Wisconsin loses tomorrow, they're going what - 4-8 this season? If you lose to Illinois to start 1-4, you're not getting to six wins. You're probably not getting to five wins. You are likely headed for 4-8. Do we really think that Wisconsin is going 4-8 this season? Because the way I see it, losing tomorrow means they would go 4-8.
That's the main reason why, for me, everything points to a "get right game" for Wisconsin tomorrow. Rough start to their Big Ten schedule with Penn State (#4) and Michigan (#9). Add in Notre Dame and that's a zany schedule. If you've read a lot of my SOC posts in the past, you know what I'm going to say next.
There's just always that game where opponents come to Champaign coming off a rough patch in their schedule and then, suddenly, everything is working because they're used to playing a defense giving them 96% resistance and now they're playing a D giving them 73% resistance. Suddenly, everything they're trying to do is easier.
I'm not trying to insult Illinois here. I'm just saying that we're a program that has only 5 winning seasons in 26 years and we just fired our coach. The new coach is here to build up the roster so we can compete with Wisconsin on a regular basis, but he's only been able to add four recruits and some transfers at this point. It's going to take time to get where we want to be.
Right now, I'd say that Wisconsin playing Illinois after their Penn State-Notre Dame-Michigan stretch is like moving up to the red tees. You went out and played golf with some friends. They wanted to play from the tips. That means you're hitting driver-hybrid to all of the par fours and it's a mess. You do that for three consecutive rounds and you feel like you'll never play a solid round again.
But then you play a round where you move up to the red tees. Now you're hitting driver-gap wedge on all the par fours. You reach every Par 5 in two because the longest Par 5 is only 402 yards. Your game hasn't really improved at all - it's just a lot easier when you're 76 yards out after your drive on that par four, not 221 yards out.
That's what I'm thinking tomorrow might be for Wisconsin. They're playing all of these top-10 defenses and now they play maybe the 70th-best defense. That means they're on the red tees. And I think they're going to hammer the driver.
So I think Wisconsin covers easily. I've tried all week to convince myself that no Mertz (and possibly no Jake Ferguson) means that Wisconsin is going to look lost on offense. And while their defense will hold us under 20, maybe we can squeak out a 14-10 win or something.
But as the week went on, I just started thinking about how they're going to find everything a lot easier tomorrow. They've been playing from the tips and now they're on the red tees. I just can't see anything besides "Wisconsin gets right". As much as I would love love love to see it, I just can't see another Homecoming stunner.
Wisconsin 40, Illinois 14