College football Illinois at Wisconsin betting is going to be interesting to say the least. It’s the first of an 8-game schedule for the Big Ten, but in an empty Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers have one of the best environments in college football when fans are present, but how will players react with the stands vacant?
Wisconsin shouldn’t have to look too hard for motivation against Illinois. The Badgers cruised into Champaign ranked 6th in the nation last year, before falling to the Illini 24-23 as -28.5 favorites. UW is once again a huge favorite on Friday night (8:00 PM ET, Big Ten Network), listed at -20.5 with a betting total of 51.5. Are both of those numbers too big in the opener?
Can Illinois Repeat the Feat?
The Illini being nearly a three TD underdog is kind of head scratching and it has nothing to do with last year’s win. Lovie Smith’s team has four upperclassmen on the offensive line, has graduate student Brandon Peters back to QB the offense, and gets RB Mike Epstein back from a knee injury.
Illinois has 25 seniors on the roster this season, which is more than Smith has had the last two years total. Peters was just 9/21 in last year’s game, but was great when it counts with a 29-yard TD to Josh Imatorbhebhe (who also returns in 2020) with just over six minutes remaining. A 39-yard FG with 0:00 on the clock gave Illinois the stunning win.
Wisconsin Breaking In a New Offense
Jonathan Taylor leaving after last season was a given for the Badgers. Taylor was a stalwart in Madison for three seasons, rushing for 1977 yards and 13 TD in his freshman year alone. All total, Taylor gained 6,174 yards and scored 50 TDs on the ground for the Badgers.
Taylor was also big in last year’s game vs. Illinois, running the ball 28 times for 132 yards and a TD. He’s gone to the Indianapolis Colts though, so the biggest blow for Paul Chryst is the injury to QB Jack Coan. The Senior had surgery on his foot, and will be out indefinitely so the team turns the reins over to redshirt freshman Graham Mertz.
Mertz saw action in two games last season, and he’s also had two weeks of reps with the first team to get ready for the opener. The freshman is also up against an Illinois defense that forced 28 turnovers in 2019. The good news heading into college football Illinois at Wisconsin betting is that the Badgers have five upperclassmen starting on the O-line. Wisconsin always seems to reload too, having the nation’s top running back in four of the last eight years.
College Football Illinois at Wisconsin Betting Free Pick
Wisconsin is ranked 14th in the country and there’s a real good chance they get the win on Friday night. There’s just too many question marks to confidently back the Badgers by almost three TDs. Taylor is gone and UW starts a freshman QB. -20.5 is just too much in a season opener in an empty stadium between two veteran laden conference foes.
Wisconsin 23 – Illinois 20
Free Pick: Illinois +20.5