CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — First year Illinois coach Bret Bielema says he doesn’t want Saturday’s game against Wisconsin to be about him facing his former team for the first time but that’s not going to stop everyone from talking about anyways. The Illini (2-4) will host the Badgers (1-3) on Homecoming in a game that could give Bielema his 100th career victory. The storylines write themselves, as the two team’s meet for the first time in Memorial Stadium since 2019, when Illinois took down the sixth-ranked Badgers on a game winning, last second field goal from James McCourt.
Bielema spent seven seasons in Madison with an impressive 68-24 record in his first head coaching job, taking the program to three straight Rose Bowl appearances. He left for Arkansas in December 2012 in a move that didn’t work. Bielema was fired after five seasons with the Razorbacks, posting a 29-34 mark. But Wisconsin was where his journey as a head coach started, something Bielema says he hasn’t forgotten.
“I made a lot of great relationships, I could go on and on,” Bielema said on Monday. “You guys know me well enough that I’m a sentimental guy right? Like stories mean something to me and there’s just so many things that I can’t put a price tag on it but I told our guys unequivocally on Sunday, even Saturday after the game, just as much as I talk to them all the time about their past is important to me because it defines who you are at that moment, all of that is behind me. None of that applies to any moment or any preparation mode this week whatsoever.”
Illinois and Wisconsin kickoff at 2:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network. The Badgers have lost back-to-back games and three out of four to open the season. The Illini ended their four game losing streak on Saturday beating Charlotte 24-14.