Five Things to Watch for: Illini Edition

It’s almost time to pull off the state of Illinois Big Ten sweep.

Living in Central Illinois now, this game is a little more important to me as I don’t want to hear it from people around me. The good thing is, Illinois football fans are hard to find.

Onto what to watch for.

1. How much will Jared Abbrederis play?

The good news for Abbrederis is that he has appears to be ready to play this weekend. The bad news is that concussions aren’t anything to mess with and the symptoms can come back just as quickly as they started. We will have to see how many snaps he gets and hopefully, if the Badgers can get out to a lead like last week, he can rest more in the second half.

If he’s unable to play much, that could allow Illinois to bring an extra defender in against the run attack, since, well, they get run over quite frequently.

2. Can Illinois stop Wisconsin’s running game?

Check out that seamless transition.

This year, the Illini are 60th overall in the nation on rushing yards given up. They’ve given up a whopping total of 175 rushing yards a game. You know that has the Wisconsin offensive line and backfield pretty pumped.

Last week, in a 39-19 loss to Nebraska, Illinois gave up 335 rushing yards including 225 to Abdullah. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gordon get at least 150 himself as his quickness will be too much for Illinois to handle.

3. Will we see more of the wildcat this week?

From listening to Andersen’s press conference earlier this week, I would guess so. The Wildcat works when you have a playmaker that can make people miss. Gordon does this. I talked early this year (and obviously I wasn’t the only one) about trying to get Gordon more touches because his average yards per carry was (and is) ridiculous. Running the Wildcat gets him the ball more and also forces the defense to prepare for another phase of the offense. With the way Illinois has been stopping the run, the more run looks the Badgers can show it, the better.

4. Can Jack Russell take advantage of his opportunity?

I’m hoping this is the last week I beat this horse, as it’s a frustrating thing to watch (and write about) each week. I’ve always had the opinion that if you want to be a stage parent and try to get your son an athletic scholarship, make him kick field goal after field goal. It’s not an easy thing to do, and judging by the results of many kickers across the country, there is a demand.

I’m optimistic that Russell will make the kicks he needs to this week. Will that be a perfect night? I don’t know. I do know that if this game comes down to a field goal at the end, we are going to have more than just the kicker to complain about come Sunday.

5. Will Wisconsin’s defense repeat the Northwestern performance?

Is it just me or does it seem like Nathan Scheelhaase has been at Illinois for about six years? He never turned out to be the stud quarterback he looked like he could be as a freshman, but he’s still no slouch. He has a number of capable receivers, including sophomore Josh Ferguson out of the backfield, who leads the team in both rushing and receiving yards.

Scheelhaase will run, but I wouldn’t consider him a mobile quarterback. Ferguson will probably be the guy to watch for, but if the defense puts up another Northwestern performance, it won’t matter.

There you have it. Illinois will be pumped as it’s a night game against the three-time defending B1G champion, but I think the Badgers will be ready to punch back.

Are there things you’ll be watching for that we haven’t listed? Tell us your thoughts by leaving a comment below or by following us on Twitter.


Jay Swenson

About Jay Swenson

Jay is a Badger fan currently living in Central Illinois. He has written for several newspapers as a freelance writer, and was the Western Illinois basketball beat writer while in graduate school.