Preview: Wisconsin vs Army


The teams: The Wisconsin Badgers (2-3, 1-2) vs the Army Black Knights (4-1)

The time: 7 p.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.

The TV coverage: Big Ten Network with Brandon Gaudin and James Laurinaitas in the booth and Rick Pizzo on the sideline.

The last time: First meeting

The series: N/A

The line: Wisconsin -14


OL Logan Bruss
RB Isaac Guerendo
ILB Mike Maskalunas
K Jack Van Dyke

TE Jack Eschenbach
ILB Jordan Turner
OLB Aaron Witt


1) Strength on strength

Only one team in the country has run for more yards per game than Army’s 318.2. The Black Knights have already racked up at least 339 yards three times this season and topped 200 in every game.

Wisconsin’s defense, meanwhile, is allowing the fewest rushing yards in the nation at 41.4 per game and only one team has rushed for more than 50 yards. That was Michigan in Week 4, and it took the Wolverines 44 carries (2.6 ypc) to get there.

It is fair to say that this will be the biggest challenge for both units to this point in the year.

2) Speaking of Army’s run game

Fans of a certain age will have flashbacks to the 60s, 70s and 80s when Army has the ball Saturday night. It will be almost like finding the contents of a college football time capsule when the offense lines up in its flexbone triple-option offense. Designed to keep teams off balance, the offense is a throwback to the likes of Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame when those schools were winning national titles so long ago.

But Wisconsin said this week it will be prepared for the unique challenge. The coaches started working on a game plan during spring ball and took more time in the summer and fall camp to dig in further.

“It’s far from beginning right now, especially knowing that you didn’t have an (extra) week to prepare in-season,” defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard said. “The guys have heard everything we’re talking about, they’ve seen it, they understand kind of the issues and why you have to do things a certain way. Now it’s having that one week of prep to get it done. You got to be clean on Saturday.”

3) 1-2 punch

Wisconsin may have found its two-headed monster at tailback but it’s not the one everyone expected when the season started. Not with redshirt freshman Jalen Berger being booted from the team this week. So instead of Berger and Chez Mellusi being the featured backs, it’s Mellusi and true freshman Braelon Allen.

That duo combined for 276 yards and two touchdowns in a win against Illinois last week. Now, can they, along with the offensive line, put together back-to-back strong performances? It’s not a forgone conclusion because Army is sitting third in the country against the rush at 54 yards per game (2.41 ypc). If Wisconsin can be efficient and productive against a stout front, it will be a massive boost in confidence for the entire offense.

4) Show me something

The Graham Mertz experience has been a bumpy one to this point in the season. There have been flashes of brilliance (see end of first half against Michigan) but also way too many ugly looking decisions and throws. That was the case in his most recent adventure against Illinois. He had three potential touchdowns he was not able to capitalize on (locking on to Chimere Dike and missing a wide-open Danny Davis, an interception on a deep ball to Kendric Pryor and underthrowing Jake Ferguson). But he also went 4-for-7 on third down with three conversions to give the Badgers another set of downs.

There is no doubt the mistakes have outweighed the good plays – he has thrown two touchdowns and seven interceptions – but there remains hope it will eventually click for Mertz. Positive signs against an Army defense that has been a middling group in stopping the pass may give him – and the fanbase – some much-needed belief he can figure things out.


— Army quarterback Christian Anderson is not expected to play due to a shoulder injury and that will sting. Anderson is the team’s leading rusher at 431 yards and five touchdowns despite missing the last game with the injury. The Black Knights figure to turn to Tyhier Tyler to start, though Jemel Jones could also see time as he is the better passer of the two, though that isn’t saying much.

— Wisconsin has the worst turnover margin in the country at -2.20. That would be the worst by any FBS team for an entire season since at least 2009.

— Army has thrown a nation-low 33 passes this season, while Wisconsin has 140 attempts. Despite that, the Black Knights have one more touchdown pass (4) than the Badgers.

— Wisconsin is 2-1 all-time against the service academies (Army, Navy, Air Force) and this will be the first time the Badgers have faced one since 1979.

— Saturday night’s game figures to move along quickly. Army ranks first in the country in time of possession (40:01), while Wisconsin is fourth (35:39).


Zach Heilprin’s (3-2, 2-3 ATS) prediction: Wisconsin 21, Army 10
Ebo’s (2-3, 1-4 ATS) prediction: Wisconsin 28, Army 7
Nelson Raisbeck’s (2-3, 1-4 ATS) prediction: Wisconsin 31, Army 14
RJ Brachman’s (3-2, 1-3 ATS) prediction: Wisconsin 24, Army 14
Ben Kenney’s (3-2, 2-3 ATS) prediction: Wisconsin 13, Army 6