FACTS & STATS: Site: High Point Solutions Stadium (52,454) — Piscataway, New
Jersey. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Wisconsin 5-0, Rutgers 3-1. Away
Record: Wisconsin 0-1, Rutgers 2-2. Neutral Record: Wisconsin 0-1, Rutgers
0-0. Conference Record: Wisconsin 2-1, Rutgers 1-3. Series Record: First-ever
GAME NOTES: Two teams fighting for bowl eligibility meet up at High Point
Solutions Stadium on Saturday afternoon, as the Wisconsin Badgers pay a visit
to new Big Ten Conference rival Rutgers.
Wisconsin is hoping to become bowl eligible for the 13th consecutive season,
as the team currently owns the longest active bowl streak in the Big Ten and
tied for seventh-longest in the country. The Badgers improved to 5-2 with last
weekend’s 52-7 rout over the league’s other new member, Maryland, snapping the
Terrapins’ five-game road win streak. However, Wisconsin lost its only two
games outside of Camp Randall Stadium this season.
Meanwhile, it is Homecoming weekend for a Rutgers team that has not played on
its own campus in nearly a month. A win would make the Scarlet Knights bowl
eligible for the ninth time in 10 seasons, and it would also tie the team’s
2013 win total. But they have been stuck on win No. 5 for two straight weeks
after suffering a 56-17 setback at 13th-ranked Ohio State, and then a 42-24
loss at No. 16 Nebraska.
Despite a combined 271 years of football between these two storied programs,
this marks the first time they have ever met.
Leading the way for Wisconsin is the nation’s second-leading rusher in Melvin
Gordon, who is averaging 166.9 yards per game on the ground and has scored a
national-best 17 touchdowns. His total of 17 runs of 20 yards or longer is
also tops in the nation. The junior went over the century mark for the fifth
straight game with 122 yards and three first-half scores against Maryland
before spending most of the second half as a spectator. The nation’s active
career leader in rushing average at 7.91 yards per attempt, Gordon is on pace
to break Mike Rozier’s all-time FBS record of 7.16 ypc.
Badgers leading tackler Warren Herring and run-stuffer Marcus Trotter both
returned from injuries against the Terrapins, who needed a last-minute TD to
avoid the shutout. In fact, Wisconsin held the Terps to a season-low 175 total
yards — 227 below their season average — with most of that total coming in
garbage time. On the season, UW is one of only four teams in the FBS, Clemson,
Louisville and Stanford being the others, to rank in the top-15 in all four
major defensive categories. The Badgers are the Big Ten standard in total
defense (270.1 ypg), passing defense (163.4 ypg) and scoring defense (16.1
While no Scarlet Knights running back will be mistaken for Gordon any time
soon, the team is averaging a healthy 155.9 rushing yards per game, an
improvement of nearly 30 ypg from last year’s average (129.5 ypg). And that is
with top rusher Paul James (90.8 ypg, five TDs through four games) sidelined
since September with a season-ending knee injury. Rutgers ran for 143 yards
(3.8 ypc) and two TDs against a formidable Nebraska defense, but with starting
quarterback Gary Nova knocked out for the entire second half with a knee
injury, the Cornhuskers were able to stack the box. Nova is considered
doubtful for this weekend’s contest.
Rutgers faced Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah last week, will get Gordon this week
and then Indiana’s Tevin Coleman in the following game. That trio ranks 1-2-3
in the nation in rushing yards per game, with the aforementioned Gordon at No.
2. Put simply, Rutgers’ defenders will need to keep their lunch pails packed.
Should they manage to get Wisconsin into some obvious passing situations, the
Scarlet Knights have an advantage there as they are tied for 15th nationally
with 24 sacks. Of course, in order to do that they must find a way to limit
Gordon on first and second down, which so far has been easier said than done.
Rutgers faces another big challenge here after coming up well short against
nationally-ranked foes in back-to-back games. However, the Scarlet Knights
figure to be charged up for Homecoming, while Wisconsin has not fared well in
enemy territory this year.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rutgers 30, Wisconsin 27