Pep talk aside, this isn't looking pretty. Odds makers only have the Illini as -2.5, but that sounds like free money to me. Face it, our defense hasn't stopped a dual threat quarterback (not even Threat!) and our offense is beyond anemic. The Illini, on the other hand, are racking up points and, well, their defense isn't that great.
Given the trouble we had with Threat (!), Pryor, Clark, and Greene, it's tough for me to see how we stop Juice and Aurilius Benn, especially now that Illinois seems to have found a pair of decent running backs. Juice could stop himself (see Minnesota at Illinois), but so far our defense hasn't proven it's ability to get inside the opposition's head. Our front 7 has the talent and speed to keep up with Juice, but hasn't shown the skill -- and our D-line remains dangerously thin. Our secondary is a big liability against a playmaker like Benn. Illinois rips off yardage in big chunks as a matter of course, and I don't see any way we'll stop that.
When we have the ball we should be able to run the ball. It sounds like Clay will get the majority of carries, with Brown getting some, too. I would switch those, but it still sounds better to me than Hill getting the carries. Sorry, PJ. Your efforts have been appreciated, but you're not in the top two backs on the team. We need big chunks of yardage on first down to prevent Chryst from immediately going to the passing game on second down. Our problem is neither Sherer nor Evridge has shown the skill to run Chryst's offense, the one that turns Beckum and Graham into stars. And I don't know what about Illinois's defense will give our receivers better hands. Against Illinois's defense, we'll score, but enough?
One area of hope is Illinois's trouble on kick coverage. Maybe Gilreath finally breaks one?
Bottom line is that we need Illinois to turn the ball over to have a chance. My take on this game is Illinois 38, Wisconsin 20.
Two more reasons I'm not feeling confident:
(Badgers escape, with Stocco under center!): http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/boxscore?gameId=263010275
But I sure hope I'm wrong.
Here are the keys to the game:
(1) Will Juice, et al., protect the ball?
(2) Will Wisconsin run effectively on first down?
(3) Will Sherer get Beckum and Graham the ball?
(4) Will the Badger secondary limit Benn's YAC?
(5) Will Gilreath shorten the field returning kicks?