Game Preview: Wisconsin at Rutgers

A Halloween clash between Wisconsin and Rutgers has the Badgers in competition for a return to the Big Ten title game and the Scarlet Knights in need of a strong finish for their fifth consecutive bowl game.

 

 

Rutgers (3-4, 1-3) vs. Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1)

Time – Noon., Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wisc.

TV/Radio – Big Ten Network, 1450 AM WCTC, 710 AM WOR

Series – Wisconsin leads 1-0

Last meeting – Nov. 1 2014, Wisconsin won 37-0

Coaches: Rutgers – Kyle Flood (4th season, 26-20); Wisconsin – Paul Chryst (4th season 25-21, 1st at Wisconsin, 6-2)

Storyline Central

Big Dogs – Rutgers is a near-three touchdown underdog again. Wisconsin steamrolled through the Rutgers 2014 homecoming weekend. Rutgers and Kyle Flood need some good old fashioned Halloween wizardry, or some spooky trick plays, to even the odds and keep a bowl game in the conversation. Rutgers knows tough road environments, including Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State, but none of those games were competitive by halftime.

Banged Up – Both sides have problematic injuries. For Wisconsin, the Badgers continue to monitor star running back Corey Clement, who could return in a clash against former Glassboro teammates Paul James and Ronnie James. Wisconsin is also without starting center Dan Voltz after a season-ending knee injury last week. The Scarlet Knights likely enter kickoff without starting cornerback Blessuan Austin and will not have Leonte Carroo near 100 percent if he is available at all.

Badger Hunt – Safety Andre Hunt has an important on-field role with injuries to Kiy Hester and Davon Jacobs. Hunt’s family gets an important moment in the stands as well. Hunt’s father Leon Hunt played running back for Wisconsin, and gets to see his son in the spotlight at Camp Randall.

 

Matchup to Watch

Rutgers QB Chris Laviano vs Wisconsin LB Joe Schobert

Schobert, a former walk on, could be the most dangerous linebacker in the Big Ten. Five of his 9.5 sacks come against top-25 teams. Laviano has to be award of Schobert consistently. A good game manager adjusts his protection accordingly and keeps eyes on a linebacker that lives on the other side of the line of scrimmage against the run and pass.

Scarlet Knights win if …

Speed Beats Strength – The best Rutgers defenses swarm to the football and finish. Rutgers has to be the faster team. Rutgers has to force turnovers. But most importantly, Rutgers cannot miss tackles. Offensively, Rutgers needs to be better in its time of possession. This is a week where the running back rotation gets interesting. How much does Flood stick with the run and stay committed to his rotation formula?

 

Badgers Win if …

They Stick to Their Guns – The Wisconsin prototype is simply not a good matchup for Rutgers. Wisconsin is big and strong and deliberate. The Badgers should not over-plan around its injuries because they saw last season what can happen when they “get their stuff in” against Rutgers. The talent is down compared to last season, but the scheme works.

 

KICKOFF PRIMER

 

Impact Player

LB Quentin Gause – Gause is a tackling machine. He twice set career highs in tackles this season, and Rutgers needs three elite linebackers against the Wisconsin offensive style. Where the Scarlet Knights face a size disadvantage, speed and execution have to even the odds.

Something to Prove

QB Chris Laviano – Wisconsin shut out Gary Nova’s offense last season. It is up to Laviano as the leader of the 2015 offense to break the trend and the earlier the better in a hostile environment.

Looking to Build

WR Carlton Agudosi – Whatever role Leonte Carroo takes against Wisconsin, Agudosi yet again needs to be ready to finish the game. He caught big fourth-quarter passes in consecutive appearances against Indiana and Ohio State. Is Wisconsin next?

Freshman to Watch

CB Isaiah Wharton – An impressive ride continues for the red-shirt freshman from Kissimmee (Fla.) Gateway. Wharton began spring as a reserve cornerback that could end up at safety but he takes the field tomorrow as the top cover cornerback expected for the Scarlet Knights.  


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