September 04, 2014

Western Illinois (1-0) vs. No. 18 Wisconsin (0-1), Noon ET (Big Ten Network)

Line: No line.

Series Record: Wisconsin leads 2-0.


FCS school Western Illinois gets about $450,000 to be the lower-division punching bag in Wisconsin's home opener. A decisive win could steady the Badgers after an odd week highlighted by confusion over the health of star running back Melvin Gordon and quarterback Joel Stave.


Wisconsin passing game against Western Illinois secondary. Tanner McEvoy beat out Stave for the starting quarterback job in the preseason. The passing game and an inexperienced Wisconsin receiving corps could use a confidence boost after McEvoy was 8 of 24 for 50 yards and two interceptions in last week's loss to LSU. Western starts four seniors in the secondary.


Western Illinois: RB J.C. Baker had rushing and receiving touchdowns in last week's 45-6 blowout of Valparaiso. The level of competition increases considerably, even if the Badgers will be without top defensive lineman Warren Herring because of a right knee injury.

Wisconsin: This is a banner matchup for Arizona Western fans because both Baker and McEvoy attended the junior college. McEvoy played safety last year for Wisconsin, but a nice home debut at quarterback would ease the sense of panic in the fan base after the Badgers blew a 17-point lead in the second half to the Tigers.


Western is playing a ranked FBS opponent for the first time since a 35-7 loss to No. 11 LSU in 2003. ... QB Trenton Norvell threw for four touchdowns last week. ... This is Wisconsin's last scheduled game against an FCS school as Big Ten tries to phase out contests against lower division opponents. ... Gordon appears to be fine after having his carries limited in the second half last week because of a hip flexor injury. ... Stave is out indefinitely while working through throwing issues. ... Herring got hurt against LSU. He's out at least four weeks after having surgery this week.

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