BadgerNation had a good week identifying the 5 Keys against Northwestern. UW’s pass defense was poor, especially in terms of tackling. We noted that an unsettled QB depth chart could lead to disaster for UW and noted: “Any hiccups in the passing game can lead to a loss for UW.” The passing game against a poor Northwestern squad was a complete disaster, and UW needed Melvin Gordon’s record game to keep it close. A very bad performance for UW where preparation and skill level performed far, far below talent level.
On to the woeful Illinois Fighting Illini
1, Show Up
This first key really isn’t sarcastic. The only way to lose to a dreadful Illinois squad (who inexplicably lost to Purdue at home last week) would be for the team to have checked out on Coach Gary Andersen. Despite some indications of unhappiness, this doesn’t appear to be a concern for the moment. The Badgers should be ready to play on Saturday.
2, Defend the Pass
Illinois is 119th in the nation in rushing yards per game. They are much better in terms of passing yards per game, partly by design, partly through necessity, as they are frequently behind in the second half of games. Starting quarterback, Wes Lunt, is out with a fractured fibula and this has to be considered good news for UW cornerbacks coach Ben Strickland and his decidedly under-performing defensive backs. UW fans have seen Illini backup QB Reilly O’Toole before and he is not a bad second option. Even facing the backup QB, expect UW’s secondary to still get caught in poor coverage on occasion.
3, LBs Finding a Path
UW’s linebacking corps did not make an impression against Northwestern, and this needs to be a bounce-back game in terms of pressuring the quarterbacks and be more certain in tackling. Derek Landisch and Vince Biegel failed to find a path to the ball carrier on enough plays to make a difference in a close game in Evanston.
Even if Wisconsin fails in the top three keys, Melvin Gordon alone might beat Illinois. Since he was needed all game against the Wildcats, he ran for a personal record in rushing yards. He might beat that Saturday.
5, Calling the Game According to Talent
The Badgers coaching staff did a poor job adjusting its game plan to match the talent, especially at quarterback. Against Northwestern, Tanner McEvoy was asked to be a pocket quarterback and, in one of the worst decisions ever made by a UW quarterback, Joel Stave rolled out and tried to make a throw on the run in play-action from first-and-goal from the 3-yard line. Adjust to the talent and the opponents, and UW might be undefeated at this point. Instead they are looking for an identity, something that hasn’t happened since 2008.
If the keys fall UW’s way, expect a lopsided victory, something like 45-10. If any one of the keys fall the other way, it will be a much closer than expected game.