Junior Izaia Bullock was arrested and subsequently removed from the team on Tuesday for his involvement in an attempted double murder plot. Bullock is the ninth Rutgers football player to be arrested since the beginning of training camp in August. Bullock, a former linebacker, did not see game action at all in the last three seasons.
With the bye week now behind them and the toughest part of the Scarlet Knight’s schedule approaching, Rutgers must find a way to put this behind them as they square up against the Badgers in Madison on Saturday.
The Scarlet Knights enter this game 1-7, averaging 15.1 points per game while allowing opponents to score 33.8 points per game. On the other hand, Wisconsin scores 31 points per game while giving up 21.4 points per game.
The biggest storyline for the Badgers this week is injuries. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook was out last weekend with a concussion and is considered questionable for this weekend. Hornibrook had thrown for 11 touchdowns this season while completing almost 60 percent of his passes this season before injuring his head. Jack Coan started last weekend in Hornibrook’s absence and went 20-31 with a touchdown pass.
The Rutgers defense, which was supposed to be a major strength for this team in the summer, has struggled mightily this season. Especially when it comes to stopping the rush. The Scarlet Knights have struggles with depth and productivity on defense after losing Blessaun Austin to another ACL injury the first weekend of the season. Trevor Morris leads the team with 71 tackles on the season and 14 yards off of 3.5 tackles for a loss.
The Badgers are going will try to take advantage of Rutgers’ defensive weakness with a solid rushing attack. Even if Hornibrook is out for this game, Wisconsin has offensive options. Former Rutgers commit Jonathan Taylor is having another incredible season in Madison, with eight touchdowns and 1,155 rushing yards so far in 2018.
In comparison, the Scarlet Knights entire offense has 1,048 rushing yards, which has been the strong half of Rutgers’ offensive game. Jake Yard can also make some noise for the Badgers, with three receiving touchdowns and an average of 14.1 yards per reception.
The Scarlet Knights offense has not looked great in the first half of the season, but should match up decently against a banged up Wisconsin defense. The key will be for Artur Sitkowski to maintain possession of the ball.
Sitkowski, who has thrown 15 interceptions through the first eight games, has struggled in the transition to college ball. His running backs have shouldered most of the load, with Rasheem Blackshear totaling almost 400 rushing yards and true freshman Isaih Pacheco right behind him with 299 yards on the ground.
In all the talk surrounding Sitkowski and Chris Ash’s decision to let him play, it’s shocking how few snaps Pacheco was given early in the season. Sitkowski was given room to grow and make mistakes in this tragedy of a season, but Pacheco was not treated the same until recently.
Most of Pacheco’s early snaps came in garbage time and he was not given meaningful playing time until injuries began to rack up. Pacheco has impressed early on in his career, and should be given more room to grow to prepare for next year, as Sitkowski has been allowed to do.
If I’m Ash, Pacheco would start every game from here on out.
The Badgers defense matches up nicely against Rutgers’ offense, allowing only 1363 yards over the season. Ryan Connelly is a force behind the line of scrimmage for Wisconsin, with six tackles for a loss and 28 yards, and a loss of 20 yards on two sacks.
Overall, this will be a tough game for the Scarlet Knights, but not a completely unwinnable game for Rutgers. The Badgers are pretty banged up, and much of the Scarlet Knight’s hopes depend on if Hornibrook is cleared.
Prediction: Wisconsin 38, Rutgers 10
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