The Big Ten conference, specifically the West division, is often denigrated for playing old-school styles of football with stout defense and putrid production from the offense. If history is any sort of predictor, this weekend’s matchup of the University of Wisconsin football team against the Northwestern Wildcats will likely fit the bill.
Wisconsin is coming off perhaps their most complete win of the season in their 52-3 rout of Rutgers where they amassed almost 600 yards of offense and held the Scarlet Knights less than 200 total yards and forced multiple turnovers. Quarterback Graham Mertz had one of his most productive outings as a Badger throwing for over 240 yards and three touchdowns. He had a lot of success on in-breaking routes, especially to Chimere Dike and Kendric Pryor, the latter of whom hauled in four catches for 72 yards and a touchdown.
Fellow senior wideout Danny Davis only hauled in one pass on a quick screen, but was able to juke out the defensive back on way to a 72-yard touchdown. The running game was again dominant with Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi combining for over 200 yards, but Mellusi left early in the second half with a leg injury that Paul Chryst has now announced will end his 2021 season.
Northwestern’s most recent game, a loss against Iowa, looked much like previous matchups between the Wildcats and other Big Ten opponents in that it was a close affair but occurred in extremely ugly fashion with frequent turnovers and an abundance of three-and-outs.
This matchup has often featured close, one-possession games that are often won in the field position battle and decided by missed field goals and muffed punts that leave both teams, even the victor, disappointed by their performance. Even though the Badgers have put together much more complete production on both sides of the ball during recent weeks, this game is likely going to shape up into a low-scoring, one-possession affair, especially given the loss of Chez Mellusi.
Mellusi, the transfer out of Clemson and one of the lead tailbacks for Wisconsin before his injury, was well on his way to a thousand-yard season with 815 yards and 5 touchdowns. Even though Allen has been much more explosive and impressive in recent weeks, Mellusi’s loss is still enormous for this Badgers offense that relies so heavily on the ground game and time-of-possession to find victory. Fans shall see on Saturday whether the Badgers are able to replace Mellusi’s workload with a depleted running back room of Julius Davis and Jackson Acker as the two remaining tailbacks behind Allen.
The Wisconsin-Northwestern matchup will kick off at11 a.m.m Central time and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network as well as over the air on 1310 WIBA.