When: Sat., October 31; 12:00P.M. ET
Where: Madison, WI; Camp Randall Stadium (80,321)
All-Time Series: Wisconsin leads 1-0
Last Meeting: Wisconsin win, 37-0
Line: -20.5 Wisconsin
It’s only the second meeting between the two, and both teams are on separate trajectories. The Badgers still hold hope that they can make it to Indianapolis as the West division champion, while Rutgers is dealing with issues on and off the field with smoke abounding about an academic scandal, and things not going so well on Saturday’s either.
Paul Chryst should probably get more media attention for what he’s done in a season littered with injuries, but he just keeps pressing on with his team behind more air miles than usual in MadTown, and a solid and sometimes suffocating defense. There was the scare last week with the head injury to quarterback Joel Stave, but all systems appear to be go for the game at 11AM local time.
1 Burning Question: Can the Badgers Keep Pace?
Iowa has a distinct advantage in the race to get to Indianapolis, but Wisconsin is still circling the runway looking for clearance. It can ill-afford to drop another game because the Hawkeyes own the tie-break if both finish with one-loss in the conference thanks to the head-to-head win in Madison. Rutgers has been able to score on almost anyone not named Ohio State, and you’d expect a defense the caliber of Wisconsin to also pose a the same type of challenge for Kyle Flood’s crew. Wisconsin needs the win to hold out hope for ideas of grandeur, while the Scarlet Knights are still hopeful of the slim chances of a bowl-invite.
2 Key Stats:
— 11.1; That’s how many points the Badgers are giving up per game. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has been a star since coming to Madison, and he’s done it with a group effort, and scheme that relies on deception and movement. Quarterbacks have a hard time reading when and where blitzes are coming from, and assignments are rarely missed on the back-end. Rutgers is tasked with trying to crack the code once both teams step off the bus.
— 11; The number of sacks the Rutgers defense has racked up this year. That’s good for a whopping 98th in the country and a big reason why the Scarlet Knights have given up a ton of yards through the air this year. Joel Stave has had more than modest success throwing the ball this year, and if Rutgers can’t muster any pressure to make him a bit uncomfortable in his skin, it could be a long day.
3 Key Players:
Joel Stave, Wisconsin QB– Stave suffered a head injury last week and had to sit out the remainder of the game, but word out of Madison is that he’s ready to go in this one. He’s been a different passer this year than his previous efforts, and his team has needed it with all the injuries that are piling up. He’s going against a defense giving up over 310 yards per game through the air, so he should be able to move the chains and make plays.
Leonte Carroo, Rutgers WR- Carroo is perhaps the most talented wide-receiver in the league, and he’d be a key guy no matter what the situation. However, in this one he is listed as questionable and will likely be a game time decision. If he plays, and is healthy enough to be close to his explosive self, Rutgers will have an opportunity to make some big plays through the air. If he’s sidelined, it’ll be an easier day at the office for a stout Badger defense.
Kiy Hester, Rutgers SS- The Badgers are more balanced between the run and pass this year than in past seasons, so it’s not as easy on the defense to just key in on the rushing attack and make Steve beat you with his arm, because he actually has this year. To that end, the safety position is going to be huge. Whether it’s coming up in run support, or cleaning things up on the back-end against the pass, Hester needs to show his physical style on both ends. He needs to make the right reads and come up to support the run, yet be the safety valve at times when the Badgers take to the air.
4 Bold Prognostications:
— Joel Stave will throw for under 2oo yards: You’d think that Stave would be licking his chops going against a secondary that can be had, but remember he had a head injury last week and these things are worth a conservative approach. Look for the coaching staff to get him some work, but get him out of there if things get out of hand.
— The Badger defense will not allow a touchdown: The defense has been light’s out this year in Madison, and without Carroo, or with him in the lineup but banged up, the Scarlet Knights will be a one-dimensional team without much of a game-breaking option down the field. Wisconsin has one-dimensional teams for dinner … or for brunch in this case.
— Bart Houston will come on again and throw for a couple of scores:The coaching staff will take it easy with Stave to make sure his head isn’t a recurring issue, and Houston will come on and get a chance to carve up the Scarlet Knight secondary once things are comfortable. He’ll play well and have a couple of TDs through the air.
— The Badger defense will not allow a touchdown: Not wanting to risk reading the multiple fronts and blitzes that Wisconsin will bring, the Rutgers coaching staff will try and establish things on the ground and try to limit mistakes. Schobert will take advantage and get on in more than a few stops.
5 Staff Predictions:
Andy: Wisconsin 38-3 (65-15 overall; 35-44 ATS)
Dave: Wisconsin 34-21 (65-15 overall; 43-35 ATS)
Greg: Wisconsin 31-10 (59-21 overall; 44-34 ATS)
Matt: Wisconsin 34-24 (64-16 overall; 48-30 ATS)
Phil: Wisconsin 32-20 (19-8 overall; 9-15 ATS) *joined in Week 5