This weekend holds a lot of importance for Wisconsin and Illinois, or at least that's the feeling of some. So, to get a feeling of what's been going on and where things stand for our Leaders Division foe we reached out to one of the legends of Illini teams and their current radio analyst – Kurt Kittner.
Kittner finished his career setting the Illini record for most touchdown passes with 70 and is 2nd all-time in passing yards, completions, and total yardage in Illini history.
Here is what he had to say, so enjoy as we begin our in depth look at our opponents on Saturday, so enjoy!
MTB: Reading the blogs and reports there seems to be a malaise in the Illini fan base about the program in general and the football team specifically. How important is getting a win early in the Big Ten season to turning around public opinion?
Kittner: Anytime you have new hires, either at head coach or the coordinators, there is going to be a learning curve. This is no different at Illinois than it is at Wisconsin. The frustration at Illinois is in the way we are losing games.
MTB: How has the lack of a healthy Nathan Scheelhaase affected this team? It seems as if they haven't been able to find a rhythm offensively because of it.
Kittner: The Illinois offense has had an alarming number of injuries through the first 5 weeks of the season which include; Darius Millines (WR), Graham Pocic(C who started at RT last week), Hugh Thornton(LT), Josh Ferguson(RB), and Nathan Scheelhaase(QB). It is very difficult to gain consistency when nearly half of your starting offense has missed a game or more.
MTB: It seems like both Wisconsin and Illinois are at crossroads in their seasons, who, in your opinion, needs this win more and why?
Kittner: I think Illinois needs the win more at this point in the season. Our 3 loses have been tough to swallow and the team needs confidence in each other in order to fight back in the second half of the season.
MTB: Donnovan Young and Josh Ferguson are hugely important to the success of this team, at least that's what the numbers tell us. What do they bring to the table that could trouble the Badgers?
Kittner: They are two different style of running backs, Ferguson is a bit quicker and Young is more of a downhill runner but they both do a great job of catching the ball out of the backfield.
MTB: What has been the key to the Illini's success against the run this year? On the flip side what's been the biggest factor in why the defense is giving up nearly 28 points a game?
Kittner: I think our front seven is pretty strong. I think the 28 points a game is mainly because of the quality of offenses we have seen. ASU, La Tech and Penn State all have pretty darn good quarterbacks who have been efficient with the football.
MTB: Do you have a prediction and reasons for it?
Kittner: No, I don’t predict games (mostly because I’m terrible at it).