Army will take the field in hopes of rebounding from its first loss of the season after falling short on the road against Ball State. Fresh off of a bye week, the Black Knights enter with a 4-1 overall record while Wisconsin stumbles into the week with a disappointing 2-3 overall record.
Can the Badgers avoid an upset at home against a hard-nosed Army team on Saturday afternoon?
Army hoping Anderson can return following bye weekArmy was unable to keep its momentum going two weeks ago, falling short on the road 28-16 versus Ball State. Quarterback Jemel Jones completed 5-of-11 passes for 66 yards and an interception on the day. The Black Knights fell behind 21-0 early but backup quarterback Tyhier Tyler scored a pair of touchdowns on the ground to cut the deficit to just seven points before halftime. However, Army’s offense stalled in the second half. The Black Knights’ only points after halftime came on a safety by the defense.
Army’s triple-option attack took a step back when it lost starting quarterback Christian Anderson, who is still nursing a shoulder injury. If he’s unable to go, Jones and Tyler will split reps under center for the Black Knights. Despite being limited to just four games, Anderson leads the team in rushing (432 yards) and passing (187 yards) with eight combined touchdowns. As a team, Army comes in ranked second in the nation in rushing at 318.2 yards per game.
On defense, Army has surrendered only 20.8 points per game and just 276 yards of total offense per contest, good for ninth in the FBS. The Black Knights have also been stingy against the run, giving up only 54 rushing yards per game, which ranks third in the country. Army’s run defense will be tested this week against a Wisconsin team that gets nearly 55 percent of its total offense on the ground.
Mertz struggling in sophomore season for BadgersAfter back-to-back losses, Wisconsin bounced back with a 24-0 victory over Illinois last week. Graham Mertz completed 10-of-19 passes for 100 yards and an interception while Chez Mellusi rushed for a team-high 145 yards and a touchdown in the win. Wisconsin’s defense forced two turnovers and held Illinois to only 93 total yards, including just two yards per play on the day. The Badgers were also stingy on third down, limiting the Fighting Illini to just 1-for-12 on third down and 1-for-3 on fourth-down conversions.
The Badgers got some bad news this week after it was announced that running back Jalen Berger has been dismissed from the program. Berger led the team in rushing last season and had a chance to be the Badgers’ top tailback this season. However, he lost his starting job to Clemson transfer Chez Mellusi and has even lost carries to backup Braelon Allen. Allen finished with 131 rushing yards and a touchdown last week. Last season, Berger rushed for 301 yards with three touchdowns in an abbreviated Big Ten campaign.
Mertz has struggled mightily under center in his sophomore season. The 6-foot-3 signal-caller put his potential on display as a freshman but has regressed through his first five games. Mertz has completed just 55.8 percent of his passes, down from 61.1 percent from a season ago. He’s also thrown for just 781 yards with two touchdowns and seven interceptions during that span.
On defense, Wisconsin has surrendered only 20.4 points per game and just 217.4 yards of total offense per game, which ranks second in the country. The Badgers continue to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. They are averaging 208.8 rushing yards per game on offense and allowing an FBS-low 41.4 yards per game on the ground.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
This has all the makings of a tough, hard-nosed football game. Both teams come into this game among the nation's best teams at running the football and stopping the run. Army was missing its starting quarterback and arguably its biggest offensive threat in Christian Anderson, but if he's able to go, the Black Knights could have a chance to pull off the upset in this spot. Mertz has thrown seven interceptions and just two touchdowns so far this season and Army should be able to hold its own in the trenches, which doesn't bode well for Wisconsin's chances of a blowout in this spot. Take the Black Knights to cover
Full-Game Total Pick
These two teams are projected for only 39.5 points, which should leave some value on the over in this game, especially if Anderson is able to play. If Army can keep this game competitive, Wisconsin will be forced to put the ball in Mertz' hands. That should also bode well for the total here, as Wisconsin's quarterback has had a penchant for turning the ball over so far this year. Take this game to go over the projected total in this matchup in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon.