Bet Wisconsin Home Cover vs. Illinois for College Football

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, October 7, 2014 2:58 PM GMT

Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014 2:58 PM GMT

Illinois sitting last in the seven-team Big Ten West Division isn't a shock. That Wisconsin is sixth is a major surprise as the Badgers were the West favorites at sportsbooks. They're 24.5-point favorites for Saturday's game on college football odds but who do we like?

Illini Back to Backup Quarterback
When I previewed Illinois' game last week with Purdue, I mentioned that Illini coach Tim Beckman was on a very warm seat. Now it's scorching hot with many speculating that the 38-27 home loss to a really bad Boilermakers squad is the last straw for school officials regarding the coach. There is simply no excuse for any team giving up 38 points to Purdue, which rushed for 349 yards. The Boilers had four plays of more than 40 yards. The Boilermakers were averaging 23.8 points and a Big Ten-worst 312 yards a game entering last week. They finished with 551 total yards in winning for the first time in conference play under second-year coach Darrell Hazell.

The news gets worse for Illinois (3-3, 0-2 Big Ten). One of the team's few bright spots, quarterback Wes Lunt, left the game in the fourth quarter with a leg injury after throwing for 332 yards and two touchdowns. The Oklahoma State transfer and Big Ten's leading passer (313.8 yards per game) will miss 4-6 weeks with a broken leg. Lunt is tied for fourth in the nation with 14 completions of longer than 30 yards. Senior Reilly O'Toole will no doubt start, although Beckman said he wanted to consider backup Aaron Bailey. The sophomore has thrown five passes in his college career and was a redshirt candidate. O'Toole was 9-for-14 for 118 yards with a pick in place of Lunt vs. Purdue. O'Toole also started for an injured Lunt on Sept. 27 at Nebraska and was 17 of 38 for 261 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions as Illinois was beaten 45-14.

Illinois has scored on its opening possession in five straight games but has trailed at some point in the fourth quarter in all six.

 

Badgers Have Own QB Problems
Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1) was a 7.5-point favorite on college football odds last week at Northwestern but lost 20-14. That defeat knocked the previously No. 17 Badgers out of the Top 25. When a team has two quarterbacks it can be argued it doesn't really have one. That seems to be the case with UW. Tanner McEvoy and Joel Stave combined for just 138 yards on 12 of 29 passing with four interceptions in the loss. Their performances ruined a huge day from Heisman Trophy candidate Melvin Gordon, who rushed 27 times for a career-high 259 yards and a score. It was his second game of at least 250 this season.

McEvoy has started every game in 2014, but Coach Gary Andersen said going forward that the team is "best served" to use two quarterbacks. Apparently even at the same time. How would that work? McEvoy, a starter at safety last year, can play some receiver. That's what he originally was recruited as. McEvoy is more of a running threat while Stave is a better pure passer. Wisconsin is 116th in the nation in passing yards per game but fourth in rushing thanks to Gordon. He leads the nation in rushing at 174.2 yards per game. Illinois is last in the Big Ten in rush defense.

The good news for Wisconsin this week should be that the game is in Madison. The Badgers have won all three games there by at least 17 points. The Illini have lost their two road games by a combined score of 89-33.

 

Last Season
Wisconsin won at Illinois 56-32 as Stave had his highest-rated game of the season, completing 16 of 21 passes for two touchdowns and no interceptions. Wisconsin led 21-0 with 5:03 left in the first quarter. Gordon rushed 17 times for 142 yards and three scores as Wisconsin put up 478 yards of offense. When making your college football picks keep in mind that the Illini have lost four straight meetings and eight of the past nine.

Free College Football Picks: Wisconsin -24.5 at 5Dimes. There is no total posted as of this writing. Illinois is 1-11 ATS in its past 12 on the road. Wisconsin has covered eight of its past 11 at home. 

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