May 27, 2024

Badgers climbing up Big Ten West after rough start

Wisconsin Badgers Football

Wisconsin huddles up during pregame against Illinois Saturday October 9, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

The Badgers lost three off their first four games to start the season, but have now won four-straight and are in a good position entering November.

Coach Paul Chryst went back to playing Wisconsin brand of football, with a punishing ground attack and a stifling defense. The results have catapulted the team from the cellar of the Big Ten West, to second in the division. With Illinois, Iowa and Purdue out of the way, Wisconsin is in a position to sweep the West for the first time since 2017.

Northwestern and Nebraska have three wins apiece this fall, so the West is shaping up to be a crash collision course for Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Badgers have hit their stride and the rest of the Big Ten is taking notice. Ever since the loss to Michigan, Wisconsin (5-3) has kept its’ foot on the pedal. Chryst’s squad has persevered, which is why they’re one win away from bowl eligibility.

Quarterback Graham Mertz hasn’t had to win games all by himself and has a nice supporting cast around him. The Badgers have two dangerous weapons in the backfield in Chez Mellusi and Braelon Allen. For opposing Big Ten defenders, it’s like pick your poison. Mellusi leads the team in rushing and has four 100-yard performances this season. Over Wisconsin’s four-game win streak, Allen has eclipsed the century mark in rushing every contest.

The Badgers’ surge in rushing is because the big boys up front have been playing up to their potential. The offensive line continues to maul defenders and are getting it done in the trenches. Chryst went back to the program’s bread and butter and the Badgers are arguably one of the hottest teams in the league at this point.

Although Wisconsin’s offense has made huge improvements, the defense is the reason for most of the success. Defensive Coordinator Jim Leonhard continues to prove why he’s such a sought after head coaching candidate. After all, the Badgers are first in the FBS in rushing and total defense. The unit is also first in the Big Ten in pass defense and has generated 24 sacks.

Leonhard’s boys continue to put the offense in good field position and the Badgers look tough to beat when they’re all operating in sync. Wisconsin is battle-tested and seems to be on a mission. Rutgers is next on the slate, which will be a favorable matchup for Wisconsin’s offense because Greg Schiano’s bunch ranks 59th in the FBS against the run.

It’s obvious the Scarlet Knights are catching the Badgers at the wrong time. The West is in grasp and that has provided Wisconsin with all of the momentum to win the division. With the way Chryst’s team is playing now, they look unstoppable. It’ll be a complete schocker if the Badgers aren’t strolling into Minneapolis with eight wins.

There’s still a lot of football left to be played though. Chryst has to like where his team is at. Now the rest of the Big Ten will get to see if Wisconsin can ride a punishing rushing attack and an elite defense all the way to Indianapolis.