MADISON, Wis. - The No. 25 Wisconsin Badgers will head out on the road for the third time this season on Saturday, hoping that this trip will end on a happier note than their last two trips did.
The Badgers (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) will take a short trip down to Champaign, Ill., for a game with the Illinois Fighting Illini (3-2, 0-1), and Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said his team needs to win some games away from Camp Randall if they want to finish the season the way they want to.
"To be a good team and to have any chance at all to talk to yourself at the end of the year about being a great team you have to win on the road," Andersen said Monday during his weekly press conference. "We've got to be able to find a way to get that done. It hasn't happened yet. We had one [game] still in overtime and we had one we lost. We'll go see if we can get a victory this time on the road against a quality opponent."
Illinois has put up gaudy offensive numbers at times this season, with veteran quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase off to his best start since he took over under center in 2010. Scheelhaase is completing 64.2 percent of his passes through five games. The 6-foot-3 senior has thrown for 1297 yards and 14 touchdowns in new offensive coordinator Tim Beck's offense, and Andersen said he sees a quarterback that's less inclined to scramble than he used to be.
Scheelhaase has rushed for just 42 yards on 40 carries this season, and is running the ball about two times less per game than in 2012. Scheelhaase has actually played pretty well against the Badgers in his career, combing to complete 33 of 48 passes over two games for 277 yards. Andersen said the Illini rotate through at least five personnel groupings, which can cause matchup problems.
"Watching film on them initially, its an offense that give you a lot of looks and causes some problems with matchups," Andersen said. "They want to create mismatches, matchup issues, and they do a good job with that."
News and notes:
-- The Badgers distributed a depth chart on Monday like usual, but it incorrectly listed Kyle French as the starting place kicker instead of Jack Russell. Andersen said Russell will kick any field goals or extra points for the team this week at Illinois, and that his team's struggles in the kicking game have changed how he makes decisions late in games.
-- Senior wide receiver Jared Abbrederis missed most of Saturday's game with a head injury, and Andersen said after the game that he expects Abbrederis to play this week against Illinois. That prognosis hasn't changed, but Andersen said they'll know for sure in the next two days.
"I am hopeful, and I feel good about that," Andersen said of Abbrederis. "We'll know more in the next 48 hours. If Jared has the opportunity he'll go."
-- With Tanner McEvoy taking more reps at safety next to Dezmen Southward, Andersen said Michael Caputo will play a lot of outside linebacker from here on out. Andersen said having Caputo down closer to the line of scrimmage allows some of the other players to focus more of their attention on stopping the run, since Caputo is athletic enough to cover about a third of the field and help out the rest of the coverage.
"It's just an attempt to get more skill on the field and to run better as a defense, which we need and we'll need it again this week," Andersen said. "In certain packages you'll see him possibly get back to more safety stuff. Michael coming down against the spread teams puts a better athlete out on the field as a down safety or an outside linebacker."
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