Number 5: Wisconsin cornerbacks Levonne Rowan and Scott Starks—Illinois took plenty of shots downfield, but few prevailed. With starting right corner Brett Bell out with an injury, all eyes were on Rowan and Starks and they played well, helping contain Illini signal-caller Jon Beutjer. The duo made a habit of running stride-for-stride with Illinois' talented receivers, forcing the Illini to go almost exclusively to the short passing game. Despite battling a case of the flu, Starks managed to break up four passes Saturday. Rowan added two pass break ups.
Number 4: Wisconsin defensive end Darius Jones—Wisconsin's defensive line could not bring consistent pressure Saturday, but when they did get through, Jones was typically leading the charge. Jones finished with two sacks Saturday. He did a good job shedding blockers and controlling the point of attack throughout the game.
Number 3: Illinois quarterback Jon Beutjer—Beutjer was far from flawless. He was caught unaware that safety Jim Leonhard was lurking in the middle of the field on a play early in the first quarter, resulting in an interception. Two other passes would have been picked off if not for drops from Wisconsin's secondary. Beutjer, though, almost single-handedly kept the Illini in the game. Illinois' late first half scoring drive was a thing of beauty. Beutjer orchestrated it, going 11 of 14 for 70 yards, displaying startlingly precise throws and uncanny patience. Beutjer finished with 207 yards passing on 23 of 41 throwing, with one touchdown.
Number 2: Wisconsin's blocking—Simply saying the offensive line does not suffice here. Wisconsin's offensive line, tight ends, full back and receivers all had a starring role Saturday, completely dominating the line of scrimmage. Running backs Dwayne Smith and Booker Stanley often traveled five yards or more without being touched. Particular honors go to center Donovan Raiola, who manhandled whoever he was blocking and maintained his feistiness even when Illinois appeared to be gaining momentum.
Number 1: Wisconsin tailback Dwayne Smith—All Smith did in his second start in place of injured tailback Anthony Davis was run for 193 yards and three touchdowns. Smith displayed power and speed with adequate vision, taking advantage of the outstanding blocking in front of him and punishing tacklers. Smith ran with power and authority and certainly showed no ill effects of the groin injury that ailed him against North Carolina.