It has been a while since Wisconsin has looked so dominant in a win. The Badgers put forth a very impressive display against the Illini, exploding in the fourth quarter to ice the game.
It was the sort of smash-mouth football that the Madison faithful have been excepting to see from this squad all year. The offense finally got rolling, and the defense was not repeatedly burned. In the wake of Wisconsin's first conference win, here are three things that we learned from their defeat of Illinois.
Power running has defined Wisconsin football since at least the time of the glorious Ron Dayne. Last year with Montee Ball, a bruising ground game continued to be the bread and butter of the Wisconsin offense. This year, however, the ground game has struggled.
Teams have stacked the box to prevent Montee Ball from putting up the absurd numbers he did last year, and the line has not been its usual dominant self. Opposing defenses still respect the Badger ground game enough to stack the box; therefore, play-action has become the most effective tool in the Badgers' offensive arsenal. When the team needed big plays, play-action passes delivered. Play-action also helps to mask the continued subpar performance of the Wisconsin O-line.
Curt Phillips was randomly inserted for Joel Stave because...Bret Bielema felt like it? Bielema pulled Stave last week for Danny O'Brien when he wanted to run the two-minute drill.
Some consider Bielema a great coach who keeps churning out wins without elite talent, while others view him as an amazingly overrated coach who continues to shoot his team in the foot with strange decisions. Regardless of who is right, do not expect the Bielema shenanigans to end anytime soon.
This game really said about as much about the Badgers as it did about the Illini. Nathan Scheelhaase appears to be the only talented player on the entire Illinois roster. So while Wisconsin should feel good about its victory, it beat what could potentially be the worst team in the Big Ten.