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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, May 24, 2024
Chris Orr

Chris Orr and other seniors will play their last game at Camp Randall against Purdue. 

Preview: Badgers hit the road looking to keep perfect season intact

When then-No. 19 Wisconsin left campus for their season opener in South Florida back in August, there was a significantly smaller spotlight on the team.  Many fans and analysts alike had circled the game as a potential upset spot against the Badgers, facing a scrappy USF team in the extreme humidity of hurricane season. Now after seven weeks – and six consecutive dominant wins – No. 6 Wisconsin (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) will head to Illinois (2-4, 0-3) for their second road game, this time as one of the nation’s premier teams.  The players, however, couldn’t care less what the media thinks of them. 

“Honestly, they don’t have to buy in on us at all,” wide receiver AJ Taylor said postgame after the Badgers’ 38-0 win over Michigan State.  “We’ve bought in on each other, we’re a team...so if people don’t want to believe in us, that’s on them.” 

While the Badgers players try to avoid the noise, Wisconsin has received a considerable amount of attention around the country for their historical defensive start.  The Badgers have shutout four of their six opponents thus far, and have yet to trail for a single snap in all of 2019.  Wisconsin ranks first in the nation in points allowed (4.8 PPG) and yards allowed (173.3 YPG).

That doesn’t mean Saturday’s matchup against Illinois will be a walk in the park.  The Lovie Smith-led Illini put together a solid offensive performance against Nebraska earlier this year, rushing for 221 yards and four touchdowns.  They battled back from a 28-0 deficit against Michigan, cutting the lead to 28-25 in the fourth quarter before falling by three scores.  Yet for Illinois to have any success against this Badgers defensive core, they’re going to need a big performance from true freshman quarterback Matthew Robinson.  

Robinson made his first career start in the Illini’s loss to Michigan, completing 16 of 25 passes for 194 yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions.  The Wolverines defense is solid, but Robinson will be facing an entirely different level of pressure against linebacker Zack Baun and the Badgers’ pass rush. 

“When you’re hitting QBs to the ground every play, it makes them uncomfortable,” Baun said after UW’s win over Northwestern.  “It makes them want to get the ball out of their hands quickly...it keeps teams on their toes.”

Baun, a senior, is playing as well as any outside linebacker in the country to begin 2019, and has been added to most All-American lists ahead of his entry into the NFL Draft next spring.  He’s been the driving force behind WIsconsin’s impenetrable defense this season, and he even added a touchdown of his own with a pick-six against Michigan State last weekend.

Baun said postgame that their filmwork put the Badgers in great position to prevent MSU’s slant routes, which Baun jumped , intercepted, and ran thirty yards to the endzone for Wisconsin’s fourth defensive touchdown of the season. They’ve only allowed four touchdowns to opponents all year. 

Should Wisconsin keep their eyes focused on the task at hand, Saturday should be win number seven in what is quickly becoming a very promising fall in Madison.  With a bout against No. 4 Ohio State on the horizon, The Badgers have a great chance this month to put themselves in Playoff position--or wilt under pressure.  For the time being, says senior linebacker Chris Orr, Wisconsin is just focused on getting past the Illini. 

“It doesn't matter who we play,” Orr said.  “They’re just nameless, faceless opponents.”

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