Wisco Wednesday: Time for a Break

Wisconsin is the Lord of the Flies. Purdue wasn’t much of a threat. The Best QBs in the B1G are out West.

The Badgers handled business on Friday night, time for a long break before Homecoming. With next weekend being a bye week, I won’t have a game preview at the end of this week’s Wisco Wednesday. Also, I don’t have as much to say about the Purdue game as previous games this season. I think most of us have an idea of who the Badgers are right now; we just want to see consistent improvement now. 

With that in mind, this will be a shorter Wisco Wed piece. Without further introduction, let’s get into it. 

Looking Back: Offense is improving faster than Defense

Wisconsin 38
Purdue 17

WOF attended the game in West Lafayette last Friday, and it was a fantastic experience. 

The cliff notes: Ross-Ade was great, the massive video board put NFL stadiums’ to shame, the fans around town were super nice, selling beer in the stadium is great, Purdue fans stand more and are louder than Wisconsin fans (recently), and Badger fans travel well.

Shout out to Lana from Colorado who tailgated with us. 

Long Live the Streak

17 in a row!! Woo!

 To commemorate the streak Purdue opted to score 17 points. How nice of them. 

The Badgers picking up their 1st road win of the season was nice. But it comes at the expense of Purdue now being 0-3 at home to start the 2023 season. You have to feel a little bad for the Boilermaker fans. They can’t catch a break. 

Despite the rocky start to the year, the crowd in Ross-Ade Stadium was rocking for all of the 1st half. Over time though, Wisconsin just had too much success for the home fans to maintain that energy level. There was a moment early in the 4th quarter where Purdue was down 13, had the ball, and looked poised to make a comeback. But those hopes were crushed by a timely Ricardo Hallman interception. That turnover essentially iced the game. 

2003 is still the last time Purdue beat Wisconsin. Let’s keep it that way. 

Minor Mordecai Improvement

Mordecai threw downfield more than any other game this year. Unfortunately, he didn’t connect on the deep ball much. He only had 174 yards, but at least it wasn’t all screens all game. 

So where did the improvement come from? His legs.

He extended multiple plays by scrambling in the backfield, waiting for someone to come open. It didn’t result in a ton of extra completions, but it’s a promising sign for games to come. He also ran the ball more than any game yet this season. He was Wisconsin’s #2 rusher with 14 carries for 44 yards. That might not seem like much, but just getting the few yards necessary for a first down to extend the drive is huge. 2 of those 14 carries: Touchdowns. Mordecai using his legs more clearly improved the Badger’s red zone offense. 

Mordecai running the ball could prove to be a nice component of the offense as it develops over the course of the season.

Braelon’s Big Day

Braelon Allen ran the ball, and it worked. He only caught one pass, which makes me think the coaching staff finally realized he’s better off rushing than being the go-to screen guy. 

On 16 carries (I wish it was a bit more) he had 116 yards and 2 TDs. That’s 7.2 yards per carry. Those are closer to the numbers fans, and myself expected coming into the season. 

Advanced metrics loved Braelon’s performance too. Pro Football Focus (PFF) had Braelon as the highest-graded Power 5 RB in all of week 4. Scoring well with PFF implies he was breaking tackles and making something out of nothing often. With Mellusi on the mend, we’ll need more games like this from Braelon going forward. 

Defense, Still?

If the Badgers fumble the West, it won’t be because of offensive ineptitude. It will be from consistent defensive letdowns. 

“But, WOF, how can this be? Purdue only had 17 points.” 

Well, Wisconsin had 388 yards. Purdue had 396. Wisconsin was outgained. Tressel’s unit played about as well as Purdue’s. The Badgers won because they won the turnover battle, and the offense was great on 3rd down. The defense was mid. 

How I did picking the Purdue game*:

Picking the Winner: Won – Wisconsin won
Picking the Spread: Won – Wisconsin covered
Picking the O/U: Won – The Over hit – barely

My second 3 for 3 of the season. Maybe it’s the start of a hot streak?

Season-Long Record Picking Wisconsin Games*:

Picking the Winner: 4-0
Picking the Spread: 3-1
Picking the O/U: 2-2

*These picks were to express my opinion on games from a point spread perspective. I am not advocating for you, the reader, to gamble on any games. Please bet responsibly.

Around College Football: 

What is Northwestern?

Northwestern can not be understood. They are the only private school in the B1G. They fired their head coach this summer, but they are already better than last year. They play in what is essentially a high school football stadium, and many of their home games are dominated by away fans.

Northwestern is 2-2, they went 1-11 last year. How does this happen? Ask Minnesota. 

The Gophers had a 21 point lead going into the 4th quarter last week, and they absolutely blew it. Northwestern won 37-34 in double overtime. In those 2 OT periods – there were 0 TDs. The only scoring was via field goals. 2 for NW and 1 for MN. Nothing makes sense.

Northwestern might have a quarterback – Ben Bryant was 33/49 for 396, 4 TDs, and 0 INTs. Or, Minnesota might have a terrible defense. I don’t know the answer. 

Long story short. Is Minnesota really bad, or is Northwestern suddenly decent? We will just have to wait to find out. 

Indiana makes history

I know, it’s not the headline you were expecting. Indiana has ended over a decade of B1G ineptitude. What on earth am I talking about? 

For each of the last 16 years, skipping 2020 because of COVID, at least 1 Mid-American Conference (MAC) team has beaten a Big Ten team in non-conference play. Every single year – 16 years. That is a disgrace. Teams are supposed to win their cupcakes games. That’s why we call them cupcakes.

Going into week 4, the B1G was 7-0 vs. the MAC. As they should be. There was only 1 MAC game left on the schedule: Akron at Indiana. A bad on bad matchup. Akron was 2-10 in 2022, and Indiana was 4-8. Nobody watched this game. (I didn’t watch this game, and you didn’t either.)

Indiana came through, in hilariously inept Indiana fashion. In a sloppy, turnover-filled, penalty-riddled, unwatchable game, Indiana won 29-27 in Quadruple overtime. It took 4 OTs, but the Big Ten is 8-0 vs. the MAC in 2023. The streak is over.

Top 3 “Big Ten” Quarterbacks

Who are the top 3 QBs in the Big Ten right now?

JJ McCarthy at Michigan and Drew Allar at Penn State have to be the top 2, order is up for debate. And in  3rd? I’d pick either Taulia Tagovailoa at Maryland or Kyle McCord at Ohio State. Overall, the list isn’t very impressive. (Although, Allar could turn out to be amazing eventually.)

But wait. There are 4 teams entering the B1G next year. What if we included them in this top 3 ranking?

Well… they would own all 3 spots, and it’s not close.

The top 2 are tied for 1st in the Heisman odds market; that’s Caleb Williams at USC and Michael Peniz Jr. at Washington. And is there a drop off for 3rd? Nope. Bo Nix at Oregon is 4th in Heisman odds. 

So the B1G has quality QBs. They’re just all out west right now. 

Other Badger Updates

Kings of the West… 

Wisconsin has sole possession of 1st place in the Big Ten West. That doesn’t feel like it should be true, but that’s what happens when you play in a terrible division. With the win over Purdue, Bucky is 1-0.

Everyone else has a conference loss:

  • Illinois lost to Penn State
  • Iowa lost to Penn State
  • Northwestern lost to Rutgers
  • Minnesota lost to Northwestern
  • Nebraska lost to Minnesota
  • Purdue lost to Wisconsin

At a glance, I’d say we should have Penn State as the honorary 1st place team in the West. And if Wisco played PSU tomorrow, who do you think would win?

Looking ahead:

The West is currently 0-3 vs. the East with 3 crossover games coming up in Week 5. If all the favorites win, the West’s record will improve to 1-5. That’s no bueno. 

Chez Mellusi

Chez Mellusi is done for the year. He had a Purdue defender land on his leg in the 4th Quarter of the game last Friday, and it fractured his fibula. The Badgers are measurably worse without Chez available. 

I have two major takeaways:

1st: Because Mellusi only played in 4 games this season, he will actually be able to come back next year if healthy and willing. Had this injury happened in week 5 or later, his college career would be over.

2nd: Jackson Acker is now RB2. I don’t know if he’ll hold onto that spot, but I do think Braelon’s workload as a runner is about to go way up. More Braelon isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does make him getting injured more likely.

The Early Bye Week is Nice

Most teams hate having an early season bye. 

Generally, you want your bye week to be halfway through the season (after week 6) or later. This gives teams an opportunity to recover from injuries that have accumulated after a long stretch of consecutive games, and get ready for a late season push – hopefully into post-season play. 

For Wisconsin, I’m happy to have an early bye. There are still tons of issues and kinks that need to be worked out on both sides of the ball in Mad Town. An early bye is the perfect opportunity to address those things, and make adjustments. 

Wisconsin can learn from their early slate of games, make changes, and hopefully be much improved for the remaining games. Which, they still have ⅔ of the season in front of them. That’s plenty of time to do something special this year.

Peacock? Really?

This is more of a heads-up for readers than anything else. The Badgers’ next game against Rutgers on Oct. 7th has an official start time and TV designation as of this past Monday.

Wisconsin will host Rutgers at 11:00 AM local time and the game will be exclusively on Peacock.

I get that Rutgers is the flashiest matchup, and it’s good we likely won’t have the Iowa or Minnesota game on Peacock, but it does stink for Badgers fans that a conference game that also happens to be Homecoming is on the streaming service. The 11:00 AM kickoff is a bummer for homecoming too… but I’ll stop here. We will talk more about the Rutgers game next Wednesday.

See you then.


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This article was written by Cole Tollison and edited by Hayden Breene

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