After a 52-3 beat down of Rutgers last week, the Badgers return home to take on Northwestern. The Wildcats (3-6) are struggling after winning the Big Ten West last season. It will be no easy task regardless for Wisconisn. Here are three keys to a win this Saturday,
Run, Run, Run
Chez Mellusi and Braelon Allen are both dinged up this week. Having these two as healthy as possible will be key down the stretch. If the Badgers can get a good showing from one or both players, Wisconsin will be looking good.
Northwestern ranks 125th out of 130 FBS teams in rush defense. The Wildcats are allowing 225 yards a game on the ground. The Badgers love to run the ball. As a result, it could be a day where Graham Mertz and the passing game won’t be asked to do much. However, if Allen and Mellusi need to sit part or most of the game, the passing game needs to be ready.
Prepare For Multiple Quarterbacks
Northwestern has has three different starting quarterbacks to this point. Hunter Johnson began the year but was replaced by Ryan Hillinski. Recently, senior Andrew Marty has replaced Hillinski. Most signs point to Marty getting the nod Saturday, but the Badgers need to be ready for anything.
Like Wisconsin, Northwestern wants to run the ball as well. Sophomore running back Evan Hull has had a really good season and has 791 yards on the ground. There is no doubt Northwestern will want to feed him early and often.
Winning Ugly Might Have To Happen
Pat Fitzgerald on the Wisconsin D:
"It's No. 1 in the country for a reason. They're veteran, they're tough, they're violent, they're well-coordinated…[Jim Leonhard] is an outstanding football coach and he's got absolutely phenomenal football players. Fun to watch as a fan."
— Ben Kenney (@benzkenney) November 9, 2021
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald prides his team on defense. He has never asked a quarterback to win him games since Clayton Thorson. Fitzgerald also knows his best shot at an upset is to make Wisconsin turn the ball over and keep the nation’s best defense on the sideline. It will be a tall task and Northwestern will have to play almost perfect to keep this close.
How do you win ugly? Turnovers, time of possession, and short fields. The Wildcats defense is not terrible and one early turnover could give them confidence in a game Wisconsin does not want to keep them in.
I think this is pretty simple. If Wisconsin does not turn the ball over and do the little thing correct, this should not be a close game. However, Wisconsin is not scoring 52 points again this week. Northwestern is too good to allow that to happen. Wisconsin needs to capitalize on drives because Northwestern will want to keep the Badger defense on the field as long as possible.
Don’t be surprised if Northwestern uses trick plays and plays really aggressive, especially on defense. graham Mertz doesn’t take care of the ball very well. As a result, I expect Northwestern to blitz him early and often.
I just love this momentum the Badgers are carrying themselves with. Their confidence is as high as it has been all year and they seem to be clicking at the right time. Wisconsin knows Northwestern wants to play and win ugly. I don’t think they let the Wildcats play that game Saturday.
Wisconsin- 27 Northwestern- 10