No. 18 Wisconsin opens by hosting FCS school Illinois State

Illinois State (0-0) at No. 18 Wisconsin (0-0), Saturday, 7 p.m. ET (FS1)

Line: No line, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: First meeting.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Wisconsin is trying to start on a better note after dropping three of its first four games last season, including a 16-10 home loss to Penn State in its opener. Illinois State is attempting to have a two-game winning streak over Big Ten opponents after winning 9-7 at Northwestern in 2016. The Redbirds have lost all eight of their other matchups with Big Ten teams.

KEY MATCHUP

Wisconsin’s running game vs. Illinois State’s run defense: Illinois State’s chances of staying in the game depends on whether it can avoid getting rolled over by Wisconsin’s high-powered rushing attack. Braelon Allen is an Associated Press All-America second-team selection who rushed for 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. He’s joined by Chez Mellusi, who ran for 815 yards in nine games last season before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament. Isaac Guerendo, also back from a season-ending injury, brings breakaway speed to Wisconsin’s backfield. Illinois State’s defense is led by linebacker Zeke Vandenburgh, a preseason first-team all-Missouri Valley Conference selection.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Illinois State: RB Cole Mueller rushed for 977 yards last season and ranked 20th among all FCS players with 88.8 yards rushing per game. He ranked second in MVC freshman of the year balloting last season.

Wisconsin: LB Nick Herbig is another preseason AP All-America second-team selection. He collected 14 ½ tackles for loss and nine sacks last season while helping Wisconsin allow the fewest yards per game or yards per play of any Football Bowl Subdivision team.

FACTS & FIGURES

This game marks the debut of Wisconsin offensive coordinator Bobby Engram, the former Baltimore Ravens tight ends coach and the father of Badgers receiver Dean Engram. … Herbig, Keeanu Benton and defensive end Isaiah Mullens are the only Wisconsin players back on defense who started the majority of the Badgers’ games last season. … Wisconsin went 9-4 and beat Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl last season. Illinois State went 4-7. … Illinois State has three wins over FBS teams under Brock Spack, who is entering his 14th season as the Redbirds’ coach. Illinois State beat Eastern Michigan in 2012 and Colorado State in 2018 as well as producing that 2016 upset of Northwestern.

___

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

Related Categories:

College Football | Other Sports News | Sports

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up