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Wisconsin Football vs. Rutgers: Top Pregame Storylines to Watch

Here’s a look at the top storylines surrounding Wisconsin football vs. Rutgers.



Wisconsin Badgers wide reciever Will Pauling
Sep 16, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Will Pauling (6) during the game against the Georgia Southern Eagles at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Coming out of the well-timed bye week, Luke Fickell and the Wisconsin Badgers football team (3-1, 1-0 B1G) return home to take on Greg Schiano and the 4-1 Rutgers Scarlet Knights at 11 AM central time on Peacock.

For both programs, Saturday’s matchup is an important litmus test. Rutgers finds themselves just two wins away from bowl eligibility for the first time since 2014 — and is desperate to prove they’re for real. On the flip side, the Badgers are the only undefeated team in the Big Ten West and need to start clicking on all cylinders in October because that’s where the meat of their schedule lies.

Here’s a look at a few of the biggest pregame storylines for the Wisconsin Badgers Saturday afternoon matchup against Rutgers.

Can Wisconsin Football Stop the Run?

Entering Saturday’s game, Rutgers has the Big Ten’s No. 3 rushing offense, averaging 195.2 yards per game. Their rushing attack is led by Kyle Monangai, who has 471 yards and six touchdowns on 5.4 yards per carry — and dual-threat QB Gavin Wimsatt.

In my eyes, if the Wisconsin football defense can stop the run — the Badgers will win handily. But through four games, Mike Tressel’s unit has struggled mightily in allowing chunk plays on the ground — and is currently No. 8 in the conference in rushing defense.

Given Wisconsin’s tackling issues and lack of disruption on the defensive line — how the front seven performs will decide whether the Badgers win in an ass-whooping or if it ends up being too close for comfort.

Can the Offense Establish an RB2?

Chez Mellusi’s season-ending injury means that Wisconsin football no longer has one of the best running back tandems in the country. It also means that the Badgers will rely heavily on unproven options like Jackson Acker and Cade Yacamelli to fill that void. 

UW’s coaching staff has clarified that they want to keep Braelon Allen fresh, which makes sense because he’s the straw that stirs the drink for the Badgers offense. But we have no idea how far the drop-off will be from Mellusi to the next tier of options. 

I anticipate Wisconsin finding ways to get Acker and Yacamelli involved early — so a major storyline will be following what they do with those opportunities. 

Badgers Tackling Woes on Defense 

I’ve reached the conclusion that the Wisconsin football team’s defense lacks the high-caliber talent that we’ve been accustomed to seeing in previous years. Because of that, the Badgers need to become much more technically proficient and clean up mistakes.

Although you could point to several issues that need correcting, the missed tackles are quickly becoming maddening. Through four games, Wisconsin’s defense has averaged 11.25 missed tackles a game.

I have zero doubt improving tackling was a point of emphasis during the bye week — but if the results don’t start to follow — I’m afraid of how many times it’ll come back to bite the Badgers throughout the year.

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Dillon Graff is a Substack Newsletter Best Selling Author and the Owner of, your go-to source for in-depth coverage of the Wisconsin Badgers. His work has been featured in top media publications like USA Today, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, B5Q, Saturday Blitz, and Fansided.