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3 Wisconsin Football Players Who Need a Big Game vs. Wazzu



Wisconsin football; Badgers running back Chez Mellusi
Sep 2, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) celebrates with running back Chez Mellusi (1) following a touchdown during the first quarter against the Buffalo Bulls at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Although the No. 19 Wisconsin football program (1-0, 0-0 B1G) took home a 38-17 victory in week one over Buffalo, Luke Fickell wasn’t pleased with the on-field product in his head coaching debut with the Badgers.

So it’s back to the lab to get things ironed out because week two brings a much more formidable opponent. UW will hit the road to take on the Washington State Cougars — who upset the Badgers football team 17-14 last season at Camp Randall.

With that in mind, let’s spotlight a few players who hold the power to tip the scales in the Wisconsin Badgers favor on Saturday.

Wisconsin Football Needs the Best Version of Tanner Mordecai 

Listen, I don’t think Tanner Mordecai played as poorly as most seem to believe he did against Buffalo — but he can be better — and he needs to be if the Badgers are going to win against Washington State.

Phil Longo ran a vanilla offensive game plan, particularly in the passing game in week one — which seemed intentional. Against Wazzu, I expect we’ll get our first look at how Wisconsin football intends to push the ball downfield and utilize its playmakers.

I’m confident that Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi can do their thing and move the chains at will. And when that happens, it will open up the possibility of a home-run play or two in the passing attack. Wazzu gave up 320 yards passing last week — which is why the Badgers will control their fate if Mordecai takes care of the ball and connects with his WRs.

Wisconsin Football Needs Darryl Peterson to Be a Gamewrecker

One of my biggest question marks entering the season was the Badgers pass-rush. After re-watching the Buffalo game, I don’t feel much better.

It’s not like Wisconsin football can’t generate pressure; I just don’t see a player that opposing teams have to game-plan around. Pro Football Focus credited Darryl Peterson with a team-high four pressures last week — and even if I didn’t see that — he’s still one of the players who needs to have a big game to secure a W on the road.

It’s no secret that Cameron Ward is a weapon and can make plays as both a passer and with his feet. The Wisconsin Badgers pass-rush must get in Ward’s face early and often to mitigate his game-breaking ability.

In my humble opinion, Peterson presents the best chance to disrupt Washington State’s offensive flow.

Badgers Safety, Hunter Wohler 

Mike Tressel entrusted Muskego native Hunter Wohler with the ‘Dollar’ position in his defense, for good reason. 

In the opener, Wohler was everywhere. The junior safety registered 11 tackles and five stops playing all over the Wisconsin football defensive formation. According to PFF, Wohler played seven snaps on the DL, eight in the slot, 29 in the box, and 27 lined up at safety.  

He’s going to be the chess piece that could tilt the game in the Badgers’ favor every week — and I can’t wait to see how the defensive staff deploys him in week 2. 

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Dillon Graff is a Substack newsletter best-selling author, publisher of AllBadgers, 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's BadgersWire, Athlon Sports, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, Bucky's 5th Quarter, and FanSided.