There will certainly be no Big Noon Kickoff at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday when Wisconsin hosts Illinois. The game is tucked away completely behind a pair of more prominent and important-sounding matchups.

Iowa hosts No. 4 Michigan in a rematch of the 2021 Big Ten championship game. It deserves to be the marquee game for that reason, and may well live up to the hype. The Hawkeyes are 5-1 in their 6 most recent home games against top-5 opponents. But it may also fall well short of the hype given that Iowa is 131st in the country in total offense.

Elsewhere, an important Big Ten West battle brews in Minneapolis. Purdue is in a must-win scenario to maintain a place in the division race thanks to its prior loss to Penn State. But with starting quarterback Aidan O’Connell questionable to play, it could instead turn out to be Minnesota’s fifth straight blowout win.

By the start of the fourth quarter, all B1G eyes may be wandering to Big Ten Network for the Badgers and Fighting Illini.

Of all Saturday’s matchups — not just the early games — it will reveal the most about what to expect from each team the remainder of the season.

Bad news Badgers?

Wisconsin lurched to a 1-3 start last September, and a loss to Illinois would bring a sense of déjà vu in Madison.

That Wisconsin team rebounded from its shaky start to rattle off 7 straight wins. The Badgers entered the season finale with a shot at the Big Ten West title before relinquishing Paul Bunyan’s Axe to Minnesota, which chopped a path for Iowa to reach Indianapolis.

But had the team that showed up in October and November been present in September, Wisconsin could have afforded that slip-up.

Of course, the Badgers really were a good team last season. They just needed time to gel, and had the misfortune of drawing Penn State, Notre Dame and Michigan among their first 4 games. Play any of those teams in November, and Wisconsin might have flipped the outcome.

It’s possible this year’s Badgers are much of the same.

Jim Leonhard’s young defense was in no condition to open conference play against Ohio State’s offensive juggernaut. Wisconsin hasn’t allowed that many yards in a game (539) since the 2015 Big Ten championship game. Surely that was an exception and not the rule.

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But a head-scratching Week 2 loss to Washington State raises questions as to whether this year’s slow start is quite like last year’s. Wisconsin dominated the Cougars statistically, but thanks to 3 turnovers and 106 penalty yards, found a way to lose.

Is Wisconsin a team capable of regularly outgaining opponents by 160 yards and winning most of its games when mistakes are cleaned up? Or might these Badgers develop a Nebraska-like knack for giving away games they should win?

The outcome against Illinois should be a strong gauge of Wisconsin’s true identity, and whether the Badgers will contend in the West.

We will also learn whether Wisconsin’s opponent should be considered a contender.

Illini on the rise?

Illinois is the ultimate sleeper.

Bret Bielema’s team appears to be the Big Ten’s most improved this season, particularly on defense. The Illini are 5th in the country and 2nd in the B1G in total defense — even better than Iowa. The Illini are fourth nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 8 points per game. That’s tied with Georgia.

This is a team more people should be talking about. But they’re not.

Part of that is because Illinois football is not the type of thing people openly discuss in public. Only family and friends can be trusted with your thoughts on the subject. When the Cardinals, Cubs, White Sox, Bears or Illinois basketball can be discussed, starting off with Illini football gets you on a watch list. There was a time this wasn’t the case, but it’s been a rough decade.

If Illinois was 4-0 entering this week, people might be more inclined to pay attention. Just look at how hot Kansas is right now. But this is where Illinois has something in common with Wisconsin — the Illini handed away a game they should have won.

Illinois rather convincingly won the stat battle against Indiana. But 4 turnovers and 8 penalties kept the Hoosiers in the game. Connor Bazelak accepted the gifts with a dramatic 2-minute drive to give Indiana the win.

Beating Wyoming, Virginia and Chattanooga does little to change public perception. But a win at Wisconsin? That’ll get people talking. And without getting the side-eye in return.

A running back battle par excellence

You like dudes who can tote the rock? You’re a Big Ten fan, of course you do.

Two of the B1G’s best will be at it on Saturday.

Illinois’ Chase Brown leads the nation with 151 rushing yards per game. Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen is 3rd in the B1G and 5th in the country with 124.3 yards per game. The battle for the 2 running spots on the all-B1G first team will come down to these guys, Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim and Michigan’s Blake Corum.

That makes this 1 of just 3 games on the league schedule where 2 of the B1G’s top 4 running backs are on the field at the same time.

In a conference where only 2 of the quarterbacks are appointment television, the running back duel is compelling.

Oh yeah, there’s Bret Bielema

Another element that feels like it should be a lot bigger than it actually seems to be is Bret Bielema’s return to Camp Randall Stadium.

Bielema has a massive role in Wisconsin football history, making sure the program didn’t skip a beat after taking over for legend Barry Alvarez. He went 68-24 in 7 seasons with the Badgers, leading Wisconsin to 3 straight Rose Bowls from 2010-12. It was then that he somewhat surprisingly departed for Arkansas, where things didn’t pan out.

Bielema faced his former employer in Champaign last year, but this is his first time back in Madison.

The reach of time makes this a bit less hyped than when Nick Saban took Alabama to LSU for the first time. It’s been a decade. Wisconsin’s program hasn’t fallen off. Current students probably don’t remember enough about Bielema to form resentment about his departure. And he’s at Illinois, which seems harmless enough.

But maybe the Illini aren’t harmless. The defense and running back are certainly dangerous. On Saturday, we’ll learn whether those elements are enough to make Illinois a factor in the West.

We will also find out whether Wisconsin is on its way to repeating last season’s late rebound, or taking a step in the wrong direction.

There won’t be a more revealing game on the Big Ten schedule in Week 5.