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Wisconsin Football vs. Rutgers: Three Things to Watch For

Here are three things to look out for in the matchup between Wisconsin football and Rutgers.



Badgers quarterback Tanner Mordecai
Sep 16, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) during the game against the Georgia Southern Eagles at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After a week off, the Wisconsin football program is preparing to take on Rutgers in Saturday’s homecoming matchup. The Badgers, currently 3-1 on the season, defeated Purdue in the conference play opener and now look to remain perfect in Big Ten play.

Here are three things to watch for as the Scarlet Knights head to Madison.

How Will Jackson Acker and Cade Yacamelli Fare for Wisconsin Football?

There wasn’t a bigger storyline coming out of the Purdue game than Chez Mellusi’s injury. The fifth-year senior has unfortunately been sidelined for the rest of the season, and Wisconsin must now look to their young tailbacks, Jackson Acker and Cade Yacamelli.

Luke Fickell told reporters that both running backs will see an uptick in reps with Mellusi out for the year. Though they are unproven backs, Acker and Yacamelli reportedly had solid spring and fall camp performances. 

Acker has appeared in three games thus far, tallying eight carries for 31 yards, as well as one reception for three yards. The converted fullback was updated as the RB2 on the week six depth chart, and he’ll look to take a bulk of the carries when Braelon Allen needs a breather.

Yacamelli has not appeared for any offensive snaps through four games, but he has spent some time with the special teams unit. I’m interested to see what Yacamelli has in live game reps. If he can build off of his spring and fall camp performances, Wisconsin may not be in the worst position.

Can Wisconsin Football Shore Up the Run Defense?

Through four games, Mike Tressel’s defense hasn’t exactly met preseason expectations. The puzzle pieces haven’t all been put together yet, and the run defense is just one disappointing aspect.

The Badgers have shown that they’re vulnerable to giving up chunk plays both on the ground and through the air, but the ground game defense has stood out like a sore thumb. 

The Scarlet Knights rushing attack is nothing to scoff at. Currently, Rutgers is averaging 195.4 yards per game on the ground, good for 28th in the nation. Kyle Monangai, the Scarlet Knight’s RB1, has notched 471 yards and six touchdowns on 88 carries. It won’t be just Monangai, though. Rutgers also has Ja’shon Benjamin as their RB2, who has tallied 159 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries thus far.

Rutgers will undoubtedly challenge this Wisconsin football defense on the ground. The Badgers can’t make the same mistakes they made before the bye week if they want to come out of this one with a W.

How Will Wisconsin Football Attack Rutgers’ Defense? 

This game likely won’t be a cakewalk for Wisconsin for several reasons, and one big one is the Scarlet Knights defense.

Through five games, Rutgers has allowed just 267.8 yards per game, good for tenth in the nation. They’ve done an excellent job of keeping rushing attacks at bay, allowing just 98.6 yards per game on the ground. That mark gives the Scarlet Knights the No. 4 run defense in the Big Ten and the No. 24 run defense in the nation 

Rutgers have limited rushing attacks all season long thus far. Braelon Allen is a different animal, but the success of this Scarlet Knights defense against the run game is very notable. It will be interesting to see if Phil Longo and company lean more on the passing game, which would make plenty of sense, especially with Mellusi out. 

I’m looking for Tanner Mordecai to have a big game through the passing game. He was coming into his own as the bye week approached, and if he can keep that momentum going, this offense may finally look as advertised. 

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Jake Maier is the managing editor and publisher at He has provided coaching and editorial support to numerous writers in his role, contributing significantly to the platform's growth. His expertise extends to Wisconsin Badgers football, basketball, and recruiting coverage. Jake's previous bylines can be found at Fansided and Wisconsin Sports Heroics.