Preview and Predictions: Wisconsin vs Rutgers


The teams: The Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-1, 1-1) vs the Wisconsin Badgers (3-1, 1-0)

The time: 11 a.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.

The TV coverage: Peacock with Brendan Burke and Kyle Rudolph on the call, and Lewis Johnson on the sideline.

The last time: Wisconsin went into Piscataway and hammered Rutgers 52-3 in 2021

The series: Wisconsin leads 4-0

The line: Wisconsin -13


1) No Chez Mellusi

Wisconsin will play without running back Chez Mellusi for the first time this year after he suffered a broken leg in the win over Purdue. So, how do they replace his 13 touches per game? Well, it won’t just be Braelon Allen. The junior has taken on an increased workload the last two years when Mellusi missed time with injuries and it has hurt him down the stretch. Coach Luke Fickell said they plan to increase the use of sophomore Jackson Acker and redshirt freshman Cade Yacamelli. What that looks like against Rutgers should tell us a lot about how much they trust the two young backs.

2) The run defense

The Badgers have put some of the best run defenses in the country on the field the last couple years, so it was jarring to see Purdue gash them to the tune of 194 yards and 6.3 yards per carry two weeks ago. They got beaten on some quarterback scrambles but a lot of the Boilermakers yards came on designed run plays where guys didn’t get off blocks, leverage correctly or simply didn’t make the tackle. It was a focus during the bye week and expect some schematic changes to adjust to a Rutgers squad that leads the conference in rushing touchdowns with 15 and presents a major challenge in dual-threat quarterback Gavin Wimsatt.

3) Where’s Maema?

One of Wisconsin’s captains and unofficial mouth piece for the defense, inside linebacker Maema Njongmeta played just one snap against Purdue. It was puzzling, especially since he had started and played most of the first three games. Fickell said it was a product of what Purdue was trying to do to them and they felt Jake Chaney gave them the best chance to succeed. Njongmeta reiterated that when he spoke with reporters this week. He also confirmed he wasn’t suspended or dealing with any kind of injury. His role on Saturday is definitely one to watch.

4) The Air Raid in weather

Conditions on Saturday aren’t supposed to be overwhelmingly bad, but it could provide a challenge to offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s passing game. Temperatures are expected to be in the 40s at kick with wind gusts that could top 30 miles per hour. How much, if at all, will the Badgers be able to throw the ball down the field? And if they can’t spread Rutgers out that way, how effective can they be running the ball?

5) Lock in

The Badgers schedule will turn quite difficult in coming weeks with a visit from Iowa, a trip to face Bret Bielema and Illinois and then a home game against a top-5 Ohio State team. But first they must avoid looking past a Rutgers squad that trailed just 14-7 at the half against Michigan a couple weeks back before losing by 24. Will Wisconsin come out and look locked in from the jump? Or does a sleepy 11 a.m. kick against a non-marquee opponent lead to a slow start and a potential upset?


Per UW, the Badgers have a chance to notch their 400th Big Ten win all-time on Saturday. The only two teams with more wins are Ohio State and Michigan.

A different player has led Wisconsin in catches in the first four games. Braelon Allen had seven in the opener, Will Pauling caught five at Washington State, Skyler Bell had five against Georgia Southern and then CJ Williams had five against Purdue. However, Chimere Dike leads the team in receiving yards with 228 yards.

Wisconsin has outscored Rutgers 168-30 in the four all-time matchups between the two sides, all of which have come since 2014. The smallest margin of victory was 14 in 2018.

Safety Hunter Wohler is on pace for 133 tackles this season (13 games) after registering 41 in the first four games. That would be the most by a Wisconsin safety since Reggie Holt in 1991 and the most by any Badgers defender since Mike Taylor had 150 in 2011.


Zach Heilprin (3-1, 0-4 ATS) ’s prediction: Wisconsin 27, Rutgers 17
Ebo (3-1, 2-2 ATS) ’s prediction: Wisconsin 28, Rutgers 13
Nelson Raisbeck (3-1, 1-3 ATS)’s prediction: Wisconsin 35, Rutgers 21
RJ Brachman’s (3-1, 2-2 ATS) prediction: Wisconsin 34, Rutgers 24