Matchup to Make It

The winner of Illinois' defensive front and Wisconsin's offensive line should decide Saturday night's game.

Everybody knows what Wisconsin wants to do on offense.

The Badgers like to run the football. Then they run the football some more. And occasionally they'll mix in play-action to take advantage and keep defenses guessing.

It works well. Wisconsin currently leads the Big Ten in total offense (over 519 yards a game) and rushing offense (nearly 300 yards per).

In contrast, everybody knows what Illinois struggles with defensively. The Illini have had issues stopping the run, ranked No. 97 nationally allowing nearly 200 yards per contest.

It's as true a strongest strength against weakest weakness as you'll see in college football this weekend.

"Our key is making sure we've got proper angles, proper fits and that we're tackling these guys," Illinois defensive coordinator Tim Banks said. "We're going to have enough guys (in the box). We've just got to tackle them."

The Illini used the off week to improve in those areas after Nebraska rushed for over 300 yards in a 39-19 victory. Banks doesn't shy away from it -- he says the Wisconsin offensive line is bigger and stronger than what the Cornhuskers had to offer.

That's a scary thought.

The unit consists of one senior, three juniors and a sophomore. Those guys pave the way for running backs Melvin Gordon and James White, a duo that combined has rushed for over 4,000 career yards and seven yards per carry.

"They're very sound in what they're trying to get done," Banks said.

The Illini list the usual starters along the defensive line. Tim Kynard, Jake Howe, Austin Teitsma and (LB/DE) Houston Bates will battle against the odds to attempt to stop the Badgers. The hope is Teko Powell, returning from a foot injury, can help as well.

"He brings a different dimension in there," Banks said. "He's obviously athletic, which helps in the pass rush, but he's also a big kid."

The Illini have allowed opposing running backs to have career days twice this season. Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah rushed for 225 yards and Washington's Bishop Sankey ran for 208. If Illinois is to be successful Saturday, Gordon and White have to be held in check.

"It's going to be a challenge to say the least," Banks said.

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