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Wisconsin Football vs. Georgia Southern Analytics Recap



Wisconsin football players Tanner Mordecai and Chimere Dike celebrate a touchdown.

A lot of people have some serious concerns about Wisconsin football and their week 3 performance vs. Georgia Southern. I share some of those concerns, but based on the temperature of the fan base who’ve been most vocal on Social Media. Which I know are usually the most negative; we should shut the program down and go on with our lives because all hope is lost. That sentiment I don’t quite share. And hopefully, you don’t either!

I’ll get into it all in this initial recap, and I’ll go into much more detail in my new “DEEP DIVE” series. With that said, let’s jump into the Analytics Recap!

Play Call Distribution & EPA:

Play Calls:

We can see that our PA/RPO game was pretty solid all game. But once you split these by half, it really shows how much we left on the table in the first half of this ball game. I’ll talk later about how I believe this is really impacting us and our “slow starts”


You can see on first down the PA/RPO game was extremely successful on an EPA/Play basis. This, to me, really shows how impactful it can be when your opponent is trying to take away the rushing attack. And why we need to utilize it more right off the rip.

Am I right? Well, let’s see how much of a difference there was in the PA/RPO game from half to half.

Wisconsin Football 1st Half Play-Call Distribution & EPA:

We can see that we had a healthy dose of PA/RPO in the 1st half and a really strong EPA/Play on those plays as well! But that was the only bright spot from an EPA/Play basis. On Straight DBs and Runs, we really struggled. This begs the question, why didn’t we keep exploiting the RPO game?

Part of it is the game of football. You only get 3 Plays a drive, so if you think you’ve established the PA/RPO game enough that it has opened the box to run…and you haven’t, you’ve totally blown that play. And for any offense, getting off schedule and behind the sticks is KILLER.

That happened all too often in the 1H!

Wisconsin Football 2nd Half Play-Call Distribution & EPA:

You can see in the 2nd Half we made a concerted effort on 1st Down to either Run or work the PA/RPO off it. I believe this is the correct strategy and would probably work more PA/RPO than what they ran. But what they had going was working, with an EPA/Play on both Runs & PA/RPOs above 0.4 EPA/Play!!!

On 2nd Down, they utilized even more PA/RPO, bumping up to 44% of all Play-Calls! That caused a slight dip in EPA/Play, but it was still wildly successful at 0.29 EPA/Play!

Overall, whatever they were doing in the 2nd Half was working. With every Play-Call (PA/RPO, Straight DBs, and Runs), all with Positive EPA/Play!!! That’s what complete dominance looks like!

EPA/Play x Half & Game:

Wisconsin football analytics chart vs. Georgia Southern

Straight Dropbacks are getting slightly skewed based on the 45 YD Pass to Rucci, which generated 3.59 EPA!! A massive play. But what I wanted to highlight is that even with that, over the course of the full game our most successful plays are PA/RPO passes.

Wisconsin football analytics chart vs. Georgia Southern

We need to continue to exploit this, and ESPECIALLY in the 1st Halves of games. I get the idea of “establishing the run”, but that runs completely counter what the defense is giving us! Teams aren’t sold on the “Dairy Raid” yet, and it seems as though they will continue to load the box either pre-snap or post-snap to stop Braelon & Chez from running all over them.

The perfect counter to that is a HEALTHY to a near-unhealthy level of PA/RPO to catch them off-balance!

Wisconsin Football EPA Leaders:

Tanner Mordecai (Passing):

Wisconsin football analytics chart vs. Georgia Southern

Another aspect to beefing up the PA/RPO game is he’s REALLY GOOD in the PA/RPO game! This again leads me to believe with such a strong rushing attack and teams willing to commit extra guys to the box. Mordecai is going to get a lot of advantage throws to Chimere Dike, Bryson Green, and Will Pauling! And what we got a nice glimpse of today was a great “Safety Valve” in Tucker Ashcraft!!!

While the Passing TD numbers haven’t come like some would have expected. But personally, I don’t care what kind of numbers he puts up. What I care about is whether does things that get Wisconsin football closer to winning. He does, it just so happens that sometimes it’s not through the air!!!

Rushing/Receiving EPA Leaders:

First, let’s take a look at the number of touches/targets by each player!

Wisconsin football analytics chart vs. Georgia Southern

Despite the “hair on fire” attitude many people have Braelon Allen & Chez Mellusi still maintain their top spots in terms of usage within this offense. Will Pauling saw his targets drop a bit this week. But in his limited work he still dazzled! Dike/Green/Bell/Ashcraft were in that next tier behind Braelon & Chez as contributors to the offense this week!

EPA Totals x Player:

Wisconsin football analytics chart vs. Georgia Southern

Bryson Green had another tough week from an EPA perspective, again impacted by a 4th Down Target that went unsuccessful. Even outside of that, he was still the “worst” player from an EPA generation. He and Mordecai were simply not on the same page all game!

Braelon had a MONSTER 2nd Half from an EPA standpoint. A number of runs that moved the chains and the Badger Offense deep into Georgia Southern territory! Rucci also had a very big impact on EPA with his 45 YD reception on Wisconsin’s final Scoring drive.

Next was Mordecai, who had himself a day on the ground. Generating his first positive EPA game on the ground, helped with a pair of Rushng TDs!!

EPA/Play x Player Totals:

Wisconsin football analytics chart vs. Georgia Southern

On an EPA/Play basis, Rucci obviously stands out but CJ Williams had some really impactful receptions. With both going for 1st Downs, with his 2nd reception highlighting his “After the Catch” ability by making the initial defender miss and scampering another 6-7 yards for the 1st down!!

Chimere Dike also had a quietly successful game. He was missed on only 2 targets, and the highlight of his day was on the 2nd drive of the game. Where Mordecai bought a ton of time and was able to hit him for a 38 YD gain! You can add Skyler Bell and Will Pauling to the quietly successful category as well. Nothing jaw-dropping, just moving the chains when given the opportunity.

Wisconsin Football Defense:

If you’re an optimist, you’re going to focus on the amount of turnovers the Wisconsin Defense was able to get Saturday. If you’re a pessimist, you’ll probably focus on the two “Big Plays” and the 7+ YPA given up through the air. I think you can acknowledge that as it relates to turnovers, generating them has a fair amount of luck.

Many of those INTs came from tipped passes at the LOS, resulting in woefully underthrown passes. But the others were driven off great plays and heavy pressure on Davis Brin, not lucky at all. Ultimately, as with the offense, they didn’t play in a fashion that leaves you feeling they utterly dominated that Eagles team.

And it’s a valid feeling. Five of the six turnovers came in UW territory. That Georgia Southern Football Team, at times, seemed to move the ball at will. But time and again, we got pressure on Brin, and in those select situations, it forced/scared him enough to throw balls in positions for us to make a play. And we made the play. So, it’s hard for me to get down on this defense as a whole.

Where my concern lies is within their ability to play man-coverage, and the blown coverages they’ve shown in those schemes that have allowed BIG PLAYS. In both of their TD drives, two plays of 40+ yards put Georgia Southern deep in our territory. And they came quickly; both were on the 2nd play of the drive coincidently.

UW vs. Georgia Southern – Run Game:

Another area I have some pretty great concerns about for this UW defense is their run-stopping ability. UW had a 19% Stuff Rate against Georgia Southern, which isn’t bad, but it isn’t good either! Ultimately, they were 65% Pass vs. Run so we didn’t need to commit a ton of resources to the run game to really stop what they were doing. It looks better on paper, only allowing 2.5 YPA rushing. but if you remove the Sack Yards & Brin QB Runs, we allowed ~4.8 YPA rushing from Georgia Southern.

I hate to single out a single player, but it’s one where my eyes must visually be deceiving me because he graded out okay. I think Njongmeta is having a tough go at it this year. But he graded out as the second-best Run Defender via PFF. This is so odd to me, considering his AVDT (Average Depth of Tackle)….was 10.0. Meaning on his tackles, on average, they picked up a 1st down. That can’t happen from our supposedly “Best” MLB. I understand he’s dealing with a couple of thumb injuries, but I’d rather him get healthy before Iowa and have Chaney and Turner give it a go in the meantime. And here’s why I believe that:

  1. Much better run support – Chaney AVDT = 1.5 | Turner AVDT = 0.5 VERSUS Njonmenta AVDT = 10.0
  2. More dynamic Pass Rush – Chaney Pressure Rate = 8.3% | Turner Pressure Rate = 7.1% VERSUS Njonmenta Pressure Rate = 4.2%

Another concern for me is the DL, and unfortunately for them, almost the entire group is underperforming where they need to be. Only TWICE has a player achieved a RDEF Grade via PFF above a 70 = Above Average. Gio Paez achieved that in Week 1 with his fantastic Stuffs on 4th Down. And James Thompson Jr. achieved that in Week 2. NOBODY on that Defensive Line achieved that feat in Week 3. There are flashes, but we need consistency from that position. As the front line, they need to set that tone for the defense and become disruptors to free up our LBs clear lanes to fill. They haven’t, and our LBs have struggled…in particular Njongmeta.

Final Thoughts on Wisconsin Badgers vs. Georgia Southern:

I only have 3 Final Thoughts on this game, and I’ll leave it at that until I can get my hands on the more in-depth player tracking data that can track Coverages, Men-In-Box, Pressures x Position, etc.

– The Slow Starts CANNOT continue!!!

The 3 & Out’s + Defensive Mistakes, and Poor Communication seem to be a WAY TOO COMMON theme for Wisconsin Football at the start of games! Once is an anomaly, twice is concerning, but THREE TIMES is alarming. If it doesn’t change Friday vs. Purdue. We may need to reconsider expectations because although we’ve overcome them twice.

When you raise the level of opponent, as we saw with Washington State WSU. Or versus a future opponent in Iowa, Ohio State, or Minnesota, they will beat you. Fickell Addressed it in his Post-Game Speech, so I would expect it to be addressed, and if it’s addressed, it shouldn’t fester moving forward. HOPEFULLY!

– The PA/RPO Game will need to be utilized Earlier and MORE OFTEN

Wisconsin football was extremely good in the PA/RPO Game throughout the entire game. But we didn’t utilize it enough AGAIN, in my opinion. We utilized it significantly more in the 2nd Half, which is fantastic, we almost exclusively ran PA/RPO passes, abandoning the Straight DBs entirely.

But I think from an offensive standpoint, especially in the last two games, we’ve been stymied out of the gates. I think that has a lot to do with our game plan being to “establish the run”, which is fine and dandy…unless the defense’s game plan is “stop the run”. In modern college football, I don’t care how good your O-Line is or how bad your opponent is. That’s not a winning matchup for the offense. Guys are too fast and physical and you’re a man down (QB).

How you flip that on its head is dialing up those RPOs off the Inside Zone and Power Run Schemes and hitting Ashcraft/Rucci in the flat off the Motion/Pulls or WRs on the “Free Access”/Slants. Dial-up something to get our guys in much more open spaces vacated by players who committed themselves into the box to stop the run.

– When things get Cooking…Watch Out!!!

As bad as our slow starts are, when we get things cooking…IT LOOKS REALLY GOOD!!! I mean, competing against OSU/PSU/Michigan good, and I really don’t think that’s hyperbole. But think what you will.

In the 1st Half, our EPA/Play Average was -0.03 EPA/Play. In the 2nd Half, Wisconsin football averaged 0.53 EPA/Play, which is EXTREMELY GOOD.

Ultimately, I’m not even CLOSE to the panic button. From what I saw, this Team is still 9-3 | 10-2 | 11-1 capable. They just have to put together 4 Full Quarters of Football. Until that happens, they’ll continue to be much closer to a 9-3 expectation than 11-1. Playing that way gives them a much higher chance of slipping versus Iowa/OSU/Minn, but like I said, I don’t expect these woeful starts to continue.

I can’t wait for next week and a matchup vs. Purdue, where hopefully we can put that Full 4-Quarter game together and dominate!!!

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 me on Twitter @GardYourFickell

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The Implications of Chez Mellusi’s Injury for Wisconsin Football



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



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]


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]


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



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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