Two weeks in a row now the Wisconsin Badgers will play a newcomer to the Big Ten conference. It also marks the second week in a row that Wisconsin will play a team for the first time in school history. Last week it was Maryland. This week it is the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. It also marks just the second true road game for the Badgers, having lost their previous one at Northwestern. The opener with LSU was not considered a road game, but a game that was played at a neutral site.
The Badgers come in riding a two game winning streak having defeated Illinois before a bye to prepare for Maryland which they had no problem defeating last Saturday on homecoming.
Rutgers on the other hand has struggled in their first season in the Big Ten, boasting a 1-3 record with their lone win coming against a bad Michigan team. The Scarlet Knights get a much-needed home game after losing big to both Ohio State and Nebraska on the road in consecutive weeks.
Last week: Wisconsin defeated Maryland 52-7 behind Melvin Gordon’s 122 yards and three touchdowns. Rutgers lost to Nebraska 42-24 and also lost their star quarterback Gary Nova to a knee injury. His status is still up in the air.
Wisconsin wins if: They keep pounding the ball with Gordon and Corey Clement and their defense plays at a high level like they did a week ago. The Badgers have one of the best running attacks in the nation and it will be very difficult for Rutgers to stop it. Quarterbacks Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy will have to continue to do their part in getting just enough out of the passing game that Rutgers has to worry about that along with stopping the run.
Safety Michael Caputo had a great game last week even though the stat sheet does not reflect that. He was disrupting the rhythm of Maryland’s C.J. Brown, a big reason why they held the Terrapins to nine straight three-and-outs at one point in the game. Linebacker Derek Landisch has had a great season thus far and both men will be needed to stop the Rutgers passing attack especially if Nova plays. The addition of Warren Herring and Marcus Trotter last week has given this defense an edge it had been lacking in recent weeks.
Rutgers wins if: They can somehow stop the run and quarterback Gary Nova plays. It seems simple enough and week in and week out I write how opposing defenses must stop the Badgers run attack. But every week it doesn’t happen and Rutgers will need to find a way to really stymie what the Badgers want to do on offense. If they can force Wisconsin in a lot of third and long situations that they have to throw the ball, it could lead to a successful afternoon.
Nothing against backup quarterback Chris Laviano, but he’s no Gary Nova. The best chance the Scarlet Knights have at winning is on the arm of Nova. He’s the top quarterback in the Big Ten and without him, it will be difficult to win. Playmaking wide receiver Leonte Carroo will need to find a way to have a successful afternoon no matter who is under center. Last week the Badgers defense shut down Maryland’s Stefon Diggs and will look to do the same this week.
A Wisconsin win means: If the Badgers come away with a victory, it will make them bowl eligible and headed in the right direction to win the Big Ten-West division. This is a huge month of November for the Badgers and getting a win on the road against a struggling Rutgers team will get Wisconsin off on the right foot.
A Rutgers win means: Pulling off this upset will be huge for Rutgers in the sense that the newcomers of the conference just knocked off one of the giants of the Big Ten. It too would get them bowl eligible, but it will also give some much-needed confidence to this team. It would be a marquee win on what is right now a dismal conference season. Not to mention it would make the seat plenty warm under Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen.