Our “how you doing” feature is back for year three! Each week we at B5Q will review how each of Wisconsin’s opponents has fared heading into their contest with the Badgers.
On the heels of four straight wins by the Wisconsin Badgers (5-3 overall, 3-2 Big Ten), Paul Chryst and company will hit the road this weekend for a Big Ten crossover game versus the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-4 overall, 1-4 Big Ten).
In an attempt to preview what to expect on Saturday, here is a breakdown of the results through eight games for Rutgers, and a preview of their team on each side of the ball.
- Win vs. Temple 61-14
- Win at Syracuse 17-7
- Win vs. Delaware 45-13
- Loss at Michigan 20-13
- Loss vs. Ohio State 52-13
- Loss vs. Michigan State 31-13
- Loss at Northwestern 21-7
- Win at Illinois 20-14
Status of the offense:
So far this season Rutgers has had a fairly balanced offensive attack. The Scarlet Knights rank No. 99 in scoring offense and No. 104 in total offense, with 143 yards coming on the ground and roughly 200 yards through the air on weekly basis.
Senior quarterback Noah Vedral has started all eight games this year after an up and down 2020 season. So far this year he has played better, and outside of a three-interception game against Ohio State, he has done a good job of taking care of the ball.
Vedral is not an overly flashy player, but he can test a defense through the air and on the ground. On the season he has thrown for 1,412 passing yards with a 61.8 completion percentage, with seven touchdowns compared to three interceptions. He is also second on the team in rushing with 250 rushing yards as well.
Beyond Vedral, New Jersey native Isaih Pacheco has taken the bulk of the carries in the backfield. He is averaging just over 50 yards per game on the ground (3.6 per attempt), while freshman Kyle Monangai has become more involved over the past couple of games. Monangai leads the team with four rushing touchdowns despite only 49 carries on the year.
Out wide, Rutgers has leaned on seniors Bo Melton and Shameen Jones. Melton, in particular, leads the team in most receiving categories and is a multi-year starter that the Badgers will have to account for. Beyond the duo of Melton and Jones, Rutgers has received sporadic support from various other pass catchers, most notably, former Wisconsin wide-out Aron Cruickshank. Cruickshank has missed the past two games with a shoulder injury, so his status is up in the air for this Saturday.
When big plays have come for Rutgers this year it has come in the passing game, with Melton, Cruickshank, and reserve wide receiver Brandon Sanders all recording 50+ yard receptions this season. It will be important for the Badgers to limit big plays.
Status of the defense:
Rutgers has played much better defense since Greg Schiano returned as head coach. This season the Scarlet Knights rank No. 38 in scoring defense at roughly 23 points allowed per game.
One of the top players to keep an eye out for is senior linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi. He definitively leads the team in tackles with 79, while the next closest player only has 45. Fatukasi also leads the team in tackles for loss with 11, sacks with 3.5, and forced fumbles with two. He is a good athlete, and through eight games he has been by far their best defender.
Defensive backs Christian Izien, Avery Young, Tre Avery, and Kessawn Abraham all rank inside the top six for team tackles as well. The Scarlet Knights like to use a bunch of different packages to get after the quarterback, and also put a big emphasis on forcing turnovers. Schiano likes to deploy his defensive backs and linebackers as blitzers frequently, so how Wisconsin does in blitz pick up this week will be important to monitor.
While Rutger’s defense ranks in the bottom half of the Big Ten in most statistical categories, they have shown flashes this season. They limited Michigan earlier in the year, and most recently they took care of Illinois last weekend.
Rutgers has been a much better team this season and was able to jump out to a great 3-0 start in non-conference play. They have not fared as well in Big Ten play, losing four of their five games, but a recent road win over Illinois gives them an outside chance at securing a bowl berth over their final four games.
Australian-born punter Adam Korsak is one of the nation's best, and he routinely shifts field position in favor of the Scarlet Knights. Wisconsin will need to take care of the ball and play good special teams on Saturday because those are two areas that Rutgers has thrived this season.