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How and what to watch for Illinois vs. #14 Wisconsin

Big Ten football returns on Friday night to the league’s own network.

Wisconsin Badgers Mason Stokke runs with the ball during warm-ups before the Rose Bowl game played on January 1, 2020 against the Oregon Ducks at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Big Ten football is back this weekend and the conference is jumping straight into league play with the Wisconsin Badgers and Illinois Fighting Illini kicking off the season in Champaign. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from 2020, it’s that the first game for every team is unpredictable.

Wisconsin will be looking for revenge after losing to Illinois in 2019. But the Badgers lost Jonathan Taylor, one of the best backs in college football, to the NFL. Last season’s starting QB Jack Coan hurt his foot at practice a few weeks ago and is out indefinitely. That means redshirt freshman Graham Mertz will lead the Badgers.

He was a highly-touted prospect before signing with Wisconsin, and has been efficient in his extremely limited playing time. He completed nine of his 10 attempts for 73 yards before redshirting last season. The Badgers seem to always be able to plug in new players along the offensive line and never miss a beat.

Illinois will try to lean on quarterback Brandon Peters through the air. He has plenty of his targets from last season returning. They lost a lot of their production in the running game, but still return Mike Epstein, though he’s been plagued by injuries throughout his career. It will likely be difficult for them to get the run game going thanks to a great Wisconsin defensive line led by Keeanu Benton.

Game Time/TV Channel/Streaming

You can watch Illinois vs. Wisconsin Friday, October 23rd at 8:00 ET on Big Ten Network, or you can stream it via the BTN website or app with a cable or streaming service login.

Point Spread, Totals, Odds, Trends

Point spread: Illinois at Wisconsin (-19.5)
Point Total: 51
Money line: Illinois (+850), Wisconsin (-1667)

  • Illinois are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games
  • The total has gone under in all of Illinois’ last five road games
  • Wisconsin are 6-0 straight up in their last six at home
  • The total has gone over in four of Wisconsin’s last five Big Ten games

The Best Bet

The best bet here is the total. The number is sitting low at the moment, but teams have struggled to score points in their first games in 2020. With the absence of Taylor and an inexperienced quarterback for the Badgers, they probably won’t be able to run up the score their first contest of the season.

Pick: Under 51

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