Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen (0) and the rest of the offensive unit listens to quarterback Graham Mertz (5) in the huddle during their game Saturday, November 20, 2021 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin beat Nebraska 35-28. Mjs Uwgrid21 24 Jpg Uwgrid21

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Michigan State Spartans: What to watch for

The Wisconsin Badgers (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten) will hit the road to take on the Michigan State Spartans (2-4, 0-3 Big Ten) on Saturday afternoon.

The Badgers are coming off a blowout victory against the Northwestern Wildcats in a game where quarterback Graham Mertz threw for five touchdowns.

As for the Spartans, they are currently on a four-game losing streak. MSU will look to finally right the ship on Saturday in their fourth conference matchup.

Here are some key items to watch for in Saturday’s matchup.

How will the running game look after Chez Mellusi’s injury?

The Badgers’ running back room suffered a big blow after running back Chez Mellusi went down with a wrist injury against Northwestern. The senior back has had a productive season, rushing for 223 yards on 56 carries with a touchdown. Now, without Mellusi, the Badgers will need to find some answers on the ground.

The depth chart shows that Isaac Guerendo will be the next man up behind Braelon Allen. Guerendo, a redshirt senior, has seen less time in the backfield this season. Despite the smaller workload, the 6-foot, 223-pound running back has posted 92 yards on 21 carries with three touchdowns.

Julius Davis is another running back that could see some time. Davis has appeared in two games this season and holds a stat line of 11 carries for 82 yards.

With the loss of Mellusi for an indefinite amount of time, the Badgers will need to find some answers on the ground. UW’s running back room is deep with plenty of talent. How Wisconsin responds will be a key item to watch for in this weekend’s showdown.

Will the Wisconsin Badgers attack through the air?

Wisconsin is a program known for establishing the run. However, against Northwestern last week, the Badgers put together an incredible performance in the passing game.

Quarterback Graham Mertz put up a stat line of 299 yards and five touchdowns. Mertz targeted Chimere Dike 11 times and completed 10 of those targets for 185 yards and three touchdowns. After a strong week last week, Wisconsin may be able to find success through the air once again.

Michigan State’s secondary has been subpar, to say the least. The secondary has allowed an average of 292 passing yards per game. In their previous matchup against Ohio State, CJ Stroud passed for 377 yards and six touchdowns. While CJ Stroud is extremely talented, his performance is still indicative of the Spartan’s struggles in the secondary.

Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator Bobby Engram put together a well balanced attack in last weeks victory. It will be interesting to see if Wisconsin decides to attack through the air more often than not on Saturday.

Will the Wisconsin Badgers pass rush continue to get pressure after a great game last week?

There have been some concerns about the Badgers pass rush this season. With an impressive defensive front, it was slightly out of character for the UW defense to get little pressure. However, that was flipped after a great showing in Evanston.

Wisconsin’s defensive front caused plenty of disruption in the backfield, getting past the Northwestern offensive line with ease. Against a poor Spartan’s offensive line, the Badgers have another prime opportunity to wreak havoc.

Michigan State’s offensive line allowed four sacks against Ohio State. They also struggled to give any opportunities for the running backs as they finished with just seven rushing yards. While Ohio State’s defense is very talented, that kind of performance is indicative of the poor play of that offensive line.

As Wisconsin’s defense matches up against the Spartan’s offense, keep an eye on the pass rush as they look to build off a solid performance last week.

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