Preview: Maryland Opens As Slight Underdogs Versus Wisconsin

Maryland moved to 6-2 after a win against Northwestern with Taulia sidelined. Coming off a much-needed bye, the Terps travel to Wisconsin as they look to get their seventh win of the season this weekend for a noon kickoff on BTN. Wisconsin opened as a five-point favorite with the over/under set at 50.5

Wisconsin Badgers Preview

Head Coach: Paul Chryst, 65-23, 8th year at Wisconsin

11th year overall, 84-42

2021 Record: Overall: 9-4, Conference: 6-3

2022 Record: Overall 4-4, Conference: 2-3

Series Record: 3-0, Wisconsin

After Wisconsin fired head coach Paul Chryst two weeks ago, the Badgers turned to defensive coordinator Jim Leonard as the interim head coach.

Wisconsin Badgers: Offense

The offensive line should be stronger. It wasn’t bad at all last season, on the contrary, it was fantastic in pass protection and plowed for over 211 rushing yards per game. The unit loses OT Logan Bruss and OG Josh Seltzner, but all-star parts are back with Joe Tippmann a potentially dominant center and with Jack Nelson likely to grow into a next-level talent at left tackle.

The running backs are what make their offense hum. Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi are right there with the best duos in college football, combining for over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. Allen was a breakout star, and Mellusi was fantastic before getting knocked out for the year in November. Allen has 149 carries for 870 yards and nine touchdowns and sits fourth in the Big Ten with nearly 109 yards on the ground per game.

Graham Mertz has been good this season. Mertz is 119-188 for 1,630 yards, 17 touchdowns and six interceptions.

The former super-recruit has been way too rocky over his two seasons, throwing ten touchdown passes and 11 picks last season, but the talent and arm are there. Two years in, the decision-making process has to speed up. Chase Wolf is a decent veteran who can step in and produce if Mertz is struggling.

The talent in the receiving corps was terrific last season, but it wasn’t able to show it often enough. It’s not starting over this year, but most of the key parts are gone – Chimere Dike is the leading returning receiver with 19 catches for 272 yards and a score. Dike is still the leading receiver with 32 receptions for 523 yards and six touchdowns and sits eighth in the Big Ten with 65.4 receiving yards per game.. Keontez Lewis is coming in from UCLA, Skyler Bell is a promising young deep threat, and it’s Wisconsin, there will be a decent tight ends who can catch the ball in the middle of the field. Replacing Jake Ferguson, though, is a problem.

Still, the Badgers sit in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in total yards, scoring offense, run and pass offense.

Wisconsin Badgers: Defense

The defense put up a national championship-caliber season. For a time it was working at a historic level, finishing No. 1 in total defense, No. 1 against the run, No. 3 in third downs allowed.

There weren’t that many killer offenses on the slate. Even so, if it was so easy to be amazing everyone would do it, the D that allowed a ridiculously low, and nation’s best 4.1 yards per play wasn’t the problem.

A whole lot of starters have to be replaced, but the program has been able to keep defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard who is now the interim head coach. He’s destined to be a top head coach somewhere, but for now, all the work he did to get the players working in a rotation should pay off.

The defensive front three will be a brick wall. Keeanu Benton on the nose and Isaiah Mullens as a 3-4 end can’t be moved. There are plenty of big parts ready to fill in when needed, forget running inside on this bunch.

The pass rush comes from the linebacking corps, but leading tackler Leo Chenal is off being a Kansas City Chief and inside presence Jack Sanborn is trying to be a Chicago Bear. Nick Herbig is back after coming up with 64 tackles and a team-high nine sacks and hasn’t shown signs of letting up this season. Herbig enters Saturday leading the Big Ten with 1.36 tackles for loss per game and 0.86 sacks per game.

The Badgers were fourth in the nation and No. 1 in the Big Ten in pass efficiency defense, but they lost three good starters including both corners. John Torchio is back at one safety spot, and Jay Shaw came over from UCLA to take over one of the corner gigs. The secondary has looked shaky at times this season and is two weeks removed from all over 320 yards to Purdue, an area that Maryland can exploit with Taulia expected back.

Wisconsin Badgers: Key Transfer

PK Vito Calvaruso, Jr.
It’s really UCLA corner Jay Shaw, but the secondary will work itself out.

Collin Larsh hit 17-of-22 field goals last season, the misses weren’t bad or costly – and none of the games were decided by fewer than six points.

The 6-3, 198-pound transfer from Arkansas was the team’s kickoff man. He’s got the leg, but he needs to be a weapon for a team with a defense that doesn’t need a whole lot of points to get the job done.

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