MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin's defense is very good. Illinois' offense is not very good. So something like this didn't come as too big a surprise.
Jeff George Jr. threw four first-half interceptions as the Illini were blitzed by the seventh-ranked Badgers by a 48-3 score on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.
Illinois couldn't muster much of anything offensively Saturday, and certainly George's avalanche of interceptions over the game's opening 30 minutes didn't help. Wisconsin scored a total of 17 points off those picks, Leo Musso coming away with a pair of them including one that first bounced off the hands and foot of fellow defensive back Sojourn Shelton.
The vast differences between the two teams would've been very apparent even without George's giveaways. The Badgers totaled 455 yards, with 363 coming on the ground, a season high. Corey Clement scored the team's first two touchdowns, with Alex Hornibrook throwing to Jazz Peavy and Bart Houston throwing to Kyle Penniston for the other two end-zone trips in the first half. The Badgers got a field goal, too, right before halftime.
At the break, Wisconsin held an already-insurmountable 31-3 advantage, out-rushing Illinois by more than 100 yards.
After halftime, Wes Lunt replaced George at quarterback. It was the senior's first action since being knocked out of the Illini's loss to Purdue with a back injury. He's been dressed the past few weeks, but Lovie Smith never put him in the game until Saturday. After George went 5-for-16 for 79 yards and the four interceptions in the first two quarters, Lunt was 2-for-8 for 22 yards.
The Badgers tacked on a field goal in the third quarter. And in the fourth, Clement rushed in for his third touchdown of the game before Bradrick Shaw got a scoring rush to make it 48-3.
Illinois ended the day with 200 total yards, 101 passing and 99 rushing.
Clement and Dare Ogunbowale had huge days rushing the ball for the Badgers, gaining 123 and 103 yards, respectively. Shaw rushed for 76 yards. Hornibrook and Houston combined to throw for 92 yards.
The win sent Wisconsin one step closer to a Big Ten West Division championship and a spot in the conference title game. The Badgers — 8-2 overall, 5-2 in conference play and No. 7 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings — have regular-season games remaining against Purdue and Minnesota. Should the rival Gophers win their next two games, the annual battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe in the regular-season finale will serve as a play-in game for the Big Ten Championship Game. If the Badgers win out, they'll head to Indianapolis.
The loss dropped the Illini to 3-7 on the season and 2-5 in conference play. A seventh loss technically prevents Illinois from reaching bowl eligibility, though multiple 5-7 teams made postseason appearances last year. The Illini finish their regular-season schedule with games against Iowa and Northwestern.