Before we dive into Wazzu Week, let's continue our early season previews of Rutgers' 2014 football opponents. Homecoming this year involves a preseason conference favorite in the #14 Wisconsin Badgers. In a three-team race for the B1G West Division, Wisconsin has a great chance to go on the B1GCCG.
Head Coach: Gary Andersen (2nd year)
Key returning players: RB Melvin Gordon, RB Corey Clement, CB Sojourn Shelton
2013 Record: 9-4 (6-2 B1G)
It's pretty easy to gameplan for the Badgers: stop the run. The Wisconsin assembly line of running backs is again at full capacity with two great running backs in Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement. If those two aren't enough, Jersey native and former Bergen Catholic star Tanner McEvoy was tabbed as the starter at quarterback, giving the Badgers great athleticism at the QB position. Stopping the run is much easier said than done. Wisconsin has some major size on the offensive line, with every linemen weighing over 312 pounds. The ground game is the undisputed strength of the Badgers and has been for years, so forcing them to advance through the air is the key to success. Even better, Wisconsin lost their top four pass-catchers from 2013, including WR Jared Abbrederis and TE Jacob Pedersen. It's much better for RU to keep the ball out of Gordon and Clement's hands and forcing McEvoy to make plays.
Defensively, Wisconsin is more experienced in the secondary, returning almost every starter in the defensive backfield. Some familiar names are gone in ILB Chris Borland, DE Pat Muldoon, and NG Beau Allen, so if the Rutgers offensive line is playing at full strength, the running game should be able to gain ground. Whether or not Gary Andersen's 3-4 scheme is a good fit for the Badgers remains to be seen, but the biggest NG weighing in at 305, size could be an issue.
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This is a strength v. strength matchup, as the Scarlet Knights have seemingly been crafting a stout run defense in preparation for the Big Ten with back-to-back top six finishes since Kyle Flood took over the program. This game will be a true test for Rutgers to see if they deserve those high rankings.