Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/18/11

The head coach storming out of a press conference, a player shot in the hand, another player arrested, and four straight losses.

All of the problems Illinois (6-4, 2-4) is dealing with make Wisconsin’s (8-2, 4-2)seem small by comparison. Sure the Badgers’ special teams are a joke and they just lost center Peter Konz, one of the best linemen in the nation, for two to four weeks, but at least they’ve got their ship in order.  Illinois seems to be falling apart at the seams, and Coach Ron Zook, who is in jeopardy of losing his job, is seemingly doing nothing to stop it.

This complete lack of management and organization in Champaign could be a good thing for the Badgers or a bad thing. The Illini could continue their dysfunctional ways and not even show up to play Saturday, or they could harness the anger that comes with four straight losses after what seemed like a hopeful season and give the Badgers everything they’ve got.

Let’s take a look at how these teams match up, and who has the advantage in each area.

Offense: Wisconsin

Ball just about has down his Heisman pose. Another solid performance against Illinois could finally vault him into the national conversation for the award.

The Badger offense is simply unstoppable. Even when held off the scoreboard for any portion of the game, Montee Ball and the cete continue to put up big points, and still average 46.5 points per game. Ball and Russell Wilson are being talked about for the Heisman, and it will be interesting to see if the play calling favors one over the other. The loss of Konz shouldn’t have too much of an impact, as sophomore Ryan Groy will step in with some experience already under his belt. In what I’ve seen of Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, he can make big plays but is also prone to a lot of mistakes and poor throws. He’s led the Illini to just 25 points per game this season, and his inconsistent play is partly to blame for their current losing streak.

Defense: Tie

The Badgers give up 15.8 points per game. The Illini allow 18.6 points per game. A field goal difference can be big in close games, but these two squads are pretty equally matched. Illinois depends on junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus who has 17.5 tackles for loss, including 12.5 sacks. The man is relentless and will be a test for the Badger offensive line. For Wisconsin, it will again be linebackers Chris Borland and Mike Taylor who will have the biggest impact. Their performances relate directly to how well the defense fares, and they will be tasked with stopping a running quarterback in Scheelhaase, who has 737 yards rushing to go along with 1,857 passing yards.

Special Teams: Illinois

No longer is special teams the category hometown writers award to the opposing team just to not seem biased. The Badgers are terrible on special teams. Anything Illinois does has to be better than what Wisconsin has shown so far this season. If the Badgers continue to struggle Saturday, their special teams errors could come back to haunt them.

Coaching: Wisconsin

Blame the special teams failures on Bret Bielema if you want, but he’s still a better coach than Ron Zook. Zook seems to have lost control of his team and his antics during that press conference don’t help anything. He’s a fiery guy who can get his players ready to play and that may factor into Saturday’s game. But the calm confidence of Bielema translates to his team even better, and that gives them the advantage on and off the field.

Prediction

The Badgers will be up against maybe the best defense they’ve faced so far this season, and with a new offensive lineman in the mix could be just a bit off. But Wisconsin is still more of a complete team than Illinois, who must deal with all the controversy surrounding the program and its head coach.

Wisconsin wins the slug fest: 38-20.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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