Wisconsin entered the season with hopes of competing for a national championship. However, that dream has already been crushed as the team suffered two losses in its first six games at the hands of BYU and Michigan before also falling to Northwestern last week. Wisconsin’s team is not as strong as it has been in recent years but it is still a quality Big Ten team. Despite failing to achieve its preseason goal, Wisconsin still has a potential consolation prize in winning its first Big Ten championship since 2012 and it will most likely need to run the table in order to make it back to that title game. Wisconsin suffered a disappointing loss last week and Coach Paul Chryst will definitely get his team motivated for this game on Saturday.
Last week, the Badgers suffered a 31-17 loss against Northwestern. The team particularly struggled in the turnover department offensively as the Badgers lost three fumbles. Overall, the game was a lot more even than the scoreboard indicated as the Badgers only had two less first downs and 26 less total yards. The main reason for the lopsided score was the fact that all three Wisconsin fumbles occurred in its own territory with two of them coming inside its own redzone. All three fumbles led to Northwestern points and those fumbles resulted in 17 points for the Wildcats which was the exact margin of victory. If Wisconsin did a better job taking care of the ball, it could very easily have won the game.
One bright spot from last week’s defeat was the performance of quarterback Jack Coan. To the shock of many, Alex Hornibrook was unable to play last week due to a concussion so Coan was thrust into a hostile environment in his first start. Despite the difficult circumstances, Coan played relatively well. He completed 20 of 31 pass attempts for 158 yards with one passing touchdown along with one lost fumble. Coan did not take any real shots down the field but connected with Kendric Pryor for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. If Hornibrook cannot go this week, Coan definitely looks capable of being this team’s starting quarterback.
Wisconsin’s offense is led by star running back Jonathan Taylor. Last season, as a true freshman, Taylor bursted onto the scene as he ran for over 1,900 rushing yards with 13 rushing touchdowns. Taylor’s freshman campaign even earned him some national recognition as he finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting. This season, Taylor has looked even better as he has already rushed for 1,155 yards which is the most in the nation along with eight rushing touchdowns. In the team’s first six games this season, Taylor had at least 101 rushing yards as he continued to prove that last season was anything but a fluke. However, Northwestern did a spectacular job bottling him up last week as Taylor was held to just 46 rushing yards on 11 carries. Taylor also lost two fumbles as his ball security issues continue to plague him throughout his entire college career. I expect Taylor to avenge last week’s performance and to play extremely well since I do not think the Scarlett Knights will be able to contain him this Saturday.
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights continue to be the worst team in the Big Ten as they are once again winless in conference play through five games. Rutgers has struggled mightily on both sides of the ball this season as the team is unable to sustain any long offensive drives while also giving up a ton of points on the defensive end. Although this team has an extra week to prepare for Wisconsin, I do not think that it should make that much of a difference. The only way that Rutgers can get the miraculous win is if its defense plays remarkably well which is extremely unlikely to happen.
Rutgers enters this game off a close 18-15 home loss to Northwestern and lost the total yards battle 278-188 in the contest. Rutgers quarterback Artur Sitkowski continued to struggle as he completed 15 of 31 pass attempts for an embarrassing 81 yards. Sitkowski is on pace for one of the worst seasons in Big Ten history for a quarterback as has completed just 49.5% of his passes for 839 passing yards with three touchdowns and 15 interceptions. As a true freshman, Sitkowski has definitely had his fair share of growing pains this season. Expect those pains to amplify when he faces Wisconsin’s sturdy defense on Saturday
Overall, Wisconsin is, by far, the better team and should win this game with relative ease. Rutgers is not in the same class as Wisconsin and it should show on Saturday. I actually believe that Coan is a more talented quarterback than Hornibrook so the more playing time he gets, the more comfortable he will look as the season progresses. I expect Taylor to rush for over 150 yards as Rutgers will be unable to generate any push against Wisconsin’s elite offensive line.
Prediction: Wisconsin 37, Rutgers 10