Teams that finished last season on a down trend meet in a Big Ten Conference season opener when the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers play host to the Illinois Fighting Illini on Friday. The Fighting Illini, who finished fourth in the Big Ten West Division at 4-5 and were 6-7 overall, lost their last three games in 2019. The Badgers, who won the division in a tie-breaker over Minnesota at 7-2 and were 10-4 overall, dropped their last two games of the year. Wisconsin seeks its fifth Big Ten West Division title in seven years of the league's current divisional alignment.
The game from Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis., is slated to start at 8 p.m. ET. The Badgers are favored by 20.5 points in the latest Illinois vs. Wisconsin odds from William Hill, while the over-under for total points scored is 51.5. Before making any Wisconsin vs. Illinois picks, check out the college football predictions from the SportsLine Projection Model.
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- Illinois vs. Wisconsin spread: Wisconsin -20.5
- Illinois vs. Wisconsin over-under: 51.5 points
- Illinois vs. Wisconsin money line: Illinois +750, Wisconsin -1200
- ILL: Has more seniors on the 2020 roster (25) than in 2018 and 2019 combined (21)
- WIS: Was 23rd in the nation, averaging 34.1 points per game in 2019
Why Wisconsin can cover
The Badgers return sophomore running back Nakia Watson, the team's top returning rusher from a year ago. In 2019, Watson rushed 74 times for 331 yards (4.5 average) and two touchdowns. His best game was in the season opener against South Florida, when he carried 14 times for 80 yards (5.7 average) and scored one touchdown. Watson was a four-star recruit and helped lead Westlake High School, Texas, to the state semifinals as a senior. He finished his three-year varsity career, carrying 560 times for 3,719 yards (6.6 average) and 51 touchdowns.
Another returning offensive weapon is senior tight end Jake Ferguson, who was second on the team in 2019 with 33 receptions for 407 yards (12.3 average) and two touchdowns. His best game last season was at Illinois, when he caught five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. For his career, he has eight catches for 139 yards and two scores against the Fighting Illini. Ferguson is on the John Mackey Award Watch List for 2020.
Why Illinois can cover
The Fighting Illini return a number of top-notch defenders, including senior linebacker Jake Hansen. Hansen was third on the team in tackles last year with 72, including 41 solo. He also recorded 3.5 sacks for 27 yards, forced seven fumbles, while recovering three, and intercepted one pass. Last year in the win over Wisconsin, Hansen forced two fumbles. His eight career forced fumbles are fourth-most in program history, dating back to 1990. He is the only 2019 Butkus Award semifinalist playing college football this season.
Also returning is junior defensive back Sydney Brown, who finished second on the team with 88 tackles, including 51 solo, with one pass breakup and three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. He earned 2019 All-Big Ten third team honors. His best game last year was a 13-tackle performance at Michigan State on Nov. 9, including eight solo stops. He played in 11 games and started 10 at safety.
How to make Illinois vs. Wisconsin picks
SportsLine's model is leaning over on the total, with the model suggesting both teams combine to score 55 points. It also says one side of the spread has all the value. You can only get the pick at SportsLine.
So who wins Wisconsin vs. Illinois? And which side of the spread has all the value? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Illinois vs. Wisconsin spread to back, all from the advanced model that is up over $4,100 on its top-rated college football spread picks, and find out.