I do love a Big Ten West battle.
There will be power runs. Both teams will play defense. There will be punts.
There will be very little offense.
The quarterbacks are Tommy DeVito and Graham Mertz.
Let’s have some fun.
But is there any value to be found in this gross Big Ten West game?
Probably. Let’s break it down. Read on for our Illinois Fighting Illini vs Wisconsin Badgers Broncos odds, picks, and predictions.
Illinois Fighting Illini vs Wisconsin Badgers Broncos
Wisconsin is always a big favorite over Illinois, and the Badgers have covered three of the last four games against them. Wisco is still the favorite to take home the Big Ten West crown.
This line actually opened at Wisconsin -9, however, and the line has actually moved down to Wisconsin -7 at the time of writing.
The over has, surprisingly, taken some sharp money. Although I still project some value on the under.
Illinois Fighting Illini vs Wisconsin Badgers Broncos Prediction & Pick
Wisconsin should be just as good rushing the ball. They returned three starters and are a top-five offensive line in the country. All of the important backfield pieces are back, including workhorse Braelon Allen.
As a result, the Badgers are top-50 in Rush Success Rate, picking up 5.2 YPC despite rushing on 65% of their snaps. The Badgers also rank 123rd in seconds per play, running extremely slow.
This is probably to offset the Graham Mertz effect. Mertz is just a horrific passer, going 11-for-20 for 94 yards and an interception last week against Ohio State.
Illinois is not as talented defensively as OSU, but they have put up impressive numbers in four games against Wyoming, Indiana, Virginia, and Chattanooga. The Illini rank second in Rush Success Rate allowed and second in Pass Success Rate allowed. They rank third in Havoc and first in Points per Opportunity allowed. They rank top-25 in both Defensive Line Yards and PFF’s Pass Rush grades.
The offense is ugly, but Tommy Devito has completed 69% of his passes with a 9:2 TD-to-INT ratio. And the defense should be enough to keep the Illini in the mix with a total under 42.
Road dogs with low totals are always a sharp bet. I’ll play this one in this game.
Illinois Fighting Illini vs Wisconsin Badgers Broncos Key Matchups
Key Matchup: Red Zone Offenses vs Red Zone Defenses
The Badgers rank first in Points per Opportunity on offense, meaning they’re scoring the most points on average every time they cross the opponent’s 40-yard line.
But the Illini are first in Points per Opportunity allowed.
On the flip side, the Illini rank 108th in Points per Opportunity themselves. The Badgers are 79th in POints per Opportunity allowed.
While that writing may have been dry, the main point is that whoever converts more in the opponent’s territory will likely win this game and cover the spread. Points per Opportunity is the stat most closely correlated with covering spreads, and these are two of the best/worst at the job on each side of the ball.
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