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Wisconsin Football Is Life: Week 3

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Wisconsin Badgers Football starting safety Hunter Wohler
Wisconsin Badgers safety Hunter Wohler (24) prepares to answer questions during Wisconsin Badgers football media day at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023.

We are going to try something a little new with the B1G Roast moving forward. Instead of discussing every stupid, annoying Big Ten team every week…we will focus on the one stupid, annoying Big Ten team that we love. From now on, this weekly post will just be about the Wisconsin Badgers football program, their most recent opponent, and their upcoming opponent. 

Hopefully, this will be a little more streamlined while being filled with as much Hate as you’re used to reading.

Wisconsin Football (Overall: 2-1; B1G: 0-0)

SP+ rank: Overall 25th, Offense 44th, Defense 15th, Special Teams 7th

Previous week’s result: (W) vs. Georgia Southern, 35-14

Georgia Southern Thoughts: Man, that Georgia Southern quarterback sure can sling it around the yard! Davis Brin attempted 53 passes and completed 38 of them, although only 33 of those completions were to guys wearing the same color jersey as he! 

An incredible 12 different Ga. Southern receivers caught at least one of his passes, and four different Badgers did, too. You really love to see a signal caller who wants to get everyone involved.

Hunter Wohler (the current Big Ten Defensive Player & DAWG of the Week) picked off two of Brin’s passes, including one in the endzone while diving backward. That was one of the nicest plays I’ve ever seen a Wisconsin football defensive back make. It was also extremely timely since a score by the Eagles there would’ve tied the game at 21 in the third quarter.

On his way to another double-digit tackle performance, Wohler also had a sack, one of six the Badgers team recorded.

The Wisconsin football defense created 15 “havoc plays” (19% of their defensive snaps, aka 92nd percentile) on the afternoon. Also, it recovered a fumble (dropped by One Man Turnover Machine Davis Brin) to bring their turnover total to six on the day and, uh, the season.

There is still a TON to work on for UW, though. Their first-half performance, for the third straight week, was putrid. Tanner Mordecai still doesn’t look comfortable running Phil Longo’s offense. Despite all of their interceptions, the pass defense was not good, and they gave up too many big plays.

Georgia Southern outgained Wisconsin football 455-451 on the day. They had roughly 300 illegal formation penalties, which is just embarrassing for a coaching staff that is supposed to be so detail-oriented.

I don’t know, man; a win is a win, but I don’t know how many of these problems get straightened out on a short week before a conference road game. The Badgers are still the most talented team in the Big Ten West, but they haven’t played like it yet, at least for a full 60 minutes.

If the Wisconsin Badgers could even just figure out how to line up properly on offense, I’d count that as a major win for the week.

What’s Comes Next For Wisconsin Football? 

Up next: Friday, Sept. 22, at Purdue, 6 p.m. CT, FS1

Purdue Thoughts: You may be aware that Purdue has not beaten Wisconsin football since the 2003 season. They haven’t played every year since then, but the Badgers have won 16 (!!!) straight games against the Boilermakers, with the first win in the current streak being the Scott Starks Game. 

Since that season, the Boilermakers have had three times as many losing seasons as they’ve had seasons where they’ve won eight or more games.

This series, which started with a 32-4 Purdue win in 1892, has never seen a stretch as dominant as this current one. Is this the year that the Boilermakers finally beat Wisconsin?

Well, anything is possible, but Purdue has a new coaching staff, a new QB, a rebuilt defense, and a lack of supreme skill position talent that leads me to believe the Badgers should make this 17 in a row.

Things seem to be going well there after three weeks.

Fun Tweet of the Week I Wanted to Include Just Because

Mascots getting drilled in the beans is ALWAYS funny, and it’s even funnier when the person drilling the mascot in the beans is the mascot themselves. ‘Sko Buffs!



Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Drew Hamm on Twitter @DrewHamm5

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The Implications of Chez Mellusi’s Injury for Wisconsin Football

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Wisconsin football; Badgers running back Chez Mellusi suffers devastating injury
Sep 22, 2023; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Chez Mellusi (1) is taken off the field in a cart after suffering an injury during the second half at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin football program is heading into the bye week on a high note with a 38-17 win over Purdue. The Badgers showed some flashes of potential in their Big Ten opener, but the biggest storyline coming out of the game was the injury to Chez Mellusi

The injury looked bad on replay, but the cart coming out for the former Clemson transfer, along with an air cast being placed on his leg, heightened fears for the worst. Ultimately, it was confirmed that Mellusi would miss the rest of the 2023 season with a fractured fibula.

Mellusi’s fracture marked his third significant injury during his tenure with the Badgers. He was named the starter in 2021 after transferring in from Clemson but ultimately suffered a season-ending ACL tear. He would return for his 2022 campaign but miss four games in the middle of the season due to a broken arm. Now, just four games into the season, Mellusi will miss the final eight games of the regular season. 

Where Does Wisconsin Football Go From Here?

Without Mellusi, UW will look to its young talent to replicate his production, which could be challenging. The fifth-year senior logged 51 carries for 307 yards and four touchdowns through four games. He also tacked on three receptions for 12 yards. 

Mellusi did earn a bulk of the carries through four games, with Braleon Allen dinged up. Luckily, Allen looks to be back to his usual self, so they won’t need to rely on a younger back to take the majority of the carries. Still, the depth is a big question mark for Wisconsin’s running back room now. 

Behind Allen, the Badgers have Jackson Acker, Cade Yacamelli, Grover Bortolotti, and Nate White to fill out the rotation. 

Acker, a redshirt sophomore, has sparingly seen some time on the field as the RB3. The Madison native has appeared in three games thus far, logging eight carries for 31 yards as well as one reception for three yards. As the RB3, he’ll be expected to step up in the wake of Mellusi’s injury when Allen needs a breather. 

Converted safety Cade Yacamelli will be the likely candidate to fill Acker’s shoes in the RB3 role. He hasn’t appeared in any offensive snaps thus far, but he has seen some time on the field with special teams. Reports out of spring and fall camp indicated that Yacamelli had something in the tank as a running back, but it remains to be seen in live game reps. 

It’s not the best situation for Wisconsin to be in, but UW does have plenty of contributors at tailback who could take some snaps if need be. Although this situation is a tough one all around, there could be a bright spot. 

Chez Mellusi Could Return to the Wisconsin Football Program in 2024

Since Mellusi sustained his injury during the fourth game of the season, Badger fans shouldn’t rule out a sixth-year return from the standout tailback.

Although Mellusi didn’t see starter-level snaps during his time with Clemson, he never used a redshirt year. Plus, his sophomore season was impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, giving him another year of eligibility. 

So, the choice for Mellusi comes down to focusing on his health and looking to sign with an NFL team as a UDFA or moving on to the next phase of his life outside of football. On the other hand, he could return for a sixth year to boost his draft stock. It certainly wouldn’t hurt Wisconsin, who is looking at Allen potentially heading to the NFL draft after the season and having an influx of young running backs coming into the fold, such as Darrion Dupree, Dilin Jones, and Gideon Ituka.

Although Mellusi’s injury is devastating for a number of reasons, there is a small bright spot in that we could see him don the cardinal and white one more time. 

Wisconsin is now headed into the bye week starting 3-1 on the season. They’ll take on Rutgers on October 7th in Madison as both teams look to improve to 4-1. 


Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here. Also, like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin football news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Jake Maier on Twitter @JakeJMaier.

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Wisconsin Football Defensive Snap Counts & PFF Grades vs. Purdue

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Wisconsin football; Badgers defensive end James Thompson Jr.
Sep 22, 2023; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Wisconsin Badgers defensive end James Thompson Jr. (90) celebrates after sacking Purdue Boilermakers quarterback Hudson Card (1) during the first half at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Fickell and the Wisconsin Badgers football team (3-1, 1-0 B1G) kicked off Big Ten play with a 38-17 victory over Ryan Walters and the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium on Friday night

In this post-game recap, we dissect the performance of the Wisconsin Badgers by analyzing their snap counts and Pro Football Focus (PFF) grades for each position group — and include a few stats that help add context to the ole eye test. 

By analyzing these metrics, we can gain a clearer insight into the individual contributions of each unit to the team’s overall performance. While you can’t take these figures as gospel, this allows us to identify strengths, key contributors, and areas where Wisconsin football excelled.

Let’s dive in. 

Wisconsin Football Defensive Snap Counts & PFF Grades

Wisconsin Badgers football

Purdue Boilermakers wide receiver TJ Sheffield (8) is tackled by a group of Wisconsin Badgers players during the NCAA football game, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. Wisconsin Badgers won 38-17.

Defensive Line:

Rodas Johnson – Snap Count: [36] – PFF Grade: [47.4]

James Thomspon – Snap Count: [35] – PFF Grade: [64.6]

Darian Varner – Snap Count: [15] – PFF Grade: [62.1]

***

Gio Paez – Snap Count: [23] – PFF Grade: [44.1]

Curt Neal – Snap Count: [19] – PFF Grade: [49.0]

Ben Barten – Snap Count: [16] – PFF Grade: [59.4]

Inside Linebackers:

Jake Chaney – Snap Count: [71] – PFF Grade: [61.2]

Jordan Turner – Snap Count: [70] – PFF Grade: [48.8]

*Maema Njongmeta – Snap Count: [1?] – PFF Grade: [N/A]

Outside Linebackers:

C.J. Goetz – Snap Count: [53] – PFF Grade: [55.0]

Darryl Peterson – Snap Count: [45] – PFF Grade: [56.6]

Jeff Pietrowski – Snap Count: [14] – PFF Grade: [55.6]

Kaden Johnson – Snap Count: [5] – PFF Grade: [79.1]

Cornerbacks:

Ricardo Hallman – Snap Count: [71] – PFF Grade: [69.2]

Jason Maitre – Snap Count: [69] – PFF Grade: [58.2]

Alexander Smith – Snap Count: [50] – PFF Grade: [74.9]

Nyzier Fourqurean – Snap Count: [21] – PFF Grade: [56.0]

Safeties:

Hunter Wohler – Snap Count: [71] – PFF Grade: [71.6]

Kamo’i Latu – Snap Count: [36] – PFF Grade: [59.7]

Preston Zachman – Snap Count: [61] – PFF Grade: [53.6]

Defensive Analysis:

The most peculiar thing about Wisconsin football beating Purdue on Friday night was senior inside linebacker Maema Njongmeta essentially not playing at all. Full disclosure: I didn’t notice it until somebody pointed it out — but he appeared to see the field for one snap on fourth down late in the game. Luke Fickell said he was available — and I have a hard time believing something more isn’t going on here — but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. 

The safety rotation was also somewhat bizarre to me for several reasons: Travian Blaylock sat in favor of a heavy dosage of Preston Zachman. I was also disappointed that Austin Brown couldn’t build off a strong performance against Georgia Southern. 

I don’t need to get super in-depth on this one, but the defensive front seven was BAD. James Thompson Jr. is quickly becoming a stud on the defensive line — but other than him — there weren’t any individual performances to write home about. Nobody on the Wisconsin football defense registered more than two pressures on the night, and the Badgers finished with 16 total. 

Lastly, a Wisconsin Badgers defense that’s struggled with giving up chunk plays all season (bottom third in the NCAA) also has a huge tackling issue — and was credited with 16 missed tackles as a team. This Wisconsin football defense isn’t talented enough to overcome these sloppy mistakes and is a clear point of emphasis to clean up during the bye week.

Wisconsin Football Offensive Snap Counts & PFF Grades vs. Purdue



Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers football news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Dillon Graff on Twitter @DillonGraff.

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Wisconsin Football Falls Outside the Top 25 in Week 4 SP+ Rankings

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Wisconsin football; Badgers head coach Luke Fickell
Sep 22, 2023; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Luke Fickell look on prior to the start of the game at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday night, Wisconsin Football laid down a 21-point victory in their Big Ten Conference opener against Purdue; now, the Badgers sit outside the top 25 in the AP polls with a 3-1 record (1-0 Big Ten) heading into a Week 5 bye before taking on Rutgers. 

The ESPN SP+ rankings were updated following the Week 4 slate, and the Cardinal and White slipped in the latest polls despite their 38-17 triumph over the Boilermakers.  

Wisconsin Football Falls Outside the Top 25 in Updated SP+ Rankings

For anyone unfamiliar with the ESPN SP+ model, it’s not your father’s associated press top 25 poll. It’s a forward-facing, Predictive model that serves as a tempo and opponent-adjusted measure of efficiency.

With that out of the way, the Week 4 SP+ rankings currently have Wisconsin football as the No. 27 team in the country — down two spots from last week. According to the metric, the Badgers have an overall grade of 13.2, with the No. 39 offense, No. 18 defense, and No. 4 special teams unit.

Other notable Big Ten programs in the SP+ top 10 include Michigan (1), Ohio State (3), and Penn State (10).

When the Badgers come out of the bye week, Wisconsin football begins a tough stretch of games against Rutgers, Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio State. Let’s hope the coaching staff can make necessary defensive adjustments, clean up the penalties on offense, and work in the younger running backs who must fill the No. 2 role after losing Chez Mellusi for the season.

Good, Bad and Ugly From Wisconsin Football 38-17 Win Over Purdue



Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers football news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Dillon Graff on Twitter @DillonGraff.

Follow this link and use promo code: BADGERNOTES for 25% off your next True Classic order.

Join the Badger Notes watch party and stream Wisconsin Badgers games by following this link.

*Subscribe to BadgerNotes After Dark on Youtube and wherever you find podcasts, the official Wisconsin Badgers podcast of the Big Banter Sports Network.

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