Feels good to be home. After two straight weeks on the road in hostile, iconic stadiums, the Knights return to the friendly confines of The Birthplace. It's a "dreaded" noon start, but the opponent should bring in a good crowd, especially for Homecoming. The Badgers are B1G at its best, with a dominating defense, a stampeding running game, and so-so passing game. Will Rutgers continue the slide, or can they bring a smile to all the alums back on the banks?
1 QB + 1 QB = ?
You know how the saying goes: When you have two capable quarterbacks, it really means you have none. That's not exactly the case with Wisconsin, as head coach Gary Andersen has utilized both Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy. They have completely different skill sets, although that could be a benefit against opposing defenses. McEvoy started the season against LSU due to Stave having a case of the yips, and was unimpressive after a couple of games. Stave returned to action, and both have seemingly settled into a dual-role for the Badgers. The duo isn't exactly setting the world on fire, as Wisconsin is second-to-last in the conference in pass offense and are eighth in pass efficiency. No matter, though, because the passing game only needs to manage the offense for the star.
Melvin Gordon is a Heisman contender. If he's not just as good as Ameer Abdullah, he very well might be better. There's no bigger discrepancy between the passing struggles and rushing success on any team than Wisconsin. The Badgers lead the B1G in rushing by a large margin, and Gordon is a big reason why. He's a complete back who can carry the load through power rushing or cutback running. If he's not getting the ball, Corey Clement is another Badger back who can break a huge play from the line of scrimmage. You know Wisconsin is giving it to Gordon, yet he's almost impossible to stop.
Wisconsin is one-dimensional, but that one dimension is ridiculously strong. Stopping the running game could be even more difficult than against Nebraska due to the sheer size on the Badger line. If the Knights can somehow limit Gordon and Clement, they'll have a chance.
If the Spartans are "galaxy-class" defense, the Badgers should be universe-class. They lead the Big Ten in scoring defense, passing defense, and total defense. The players have adjusted almost perfectly to Gary Andersen's 3-4 defense, so it's scary to think what could be once he has his own recruited players fully into the system. Wisconsin is allowing a meager 16 points per game, which could be tough sledding for a limited Gary Nova or a youthful Chris Laviano.
The Badgers haven't forced a ton of interceptions, so there's hope that Ralph Friedgen will still take chances through the air. The running game might not have much success either, because Wisconsin allows a lowly 106 yards per game rushing.
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Some people think Rutgers is trending downward, but it's hard to say after playing two conference favorites. Ohio State and Nebraska are well above Rutgers' skill level at the moment, and the games played out accordingly. The Badgers are, on paper, better as well, but with the game being at home, the Knights have a chance to at least play in front of supporters. An opening line of -11 for Wisconsin is fair, and it leaves open the possibility that Rutgers could play significantly better after a tough two-game road stretch.