Ryan Kelley, BTN Stats Researcher, October 29, 2015
Last weekend finally provided a moment where both Ohio State and Michigan State could exhale. The Buckeyes, behind J.T. Barrett?s five total touchdowns in his first start of the season, took care of Rutgers in New Jersey, narrowly missing a shutout. Meanwhile in East Lansing, Connor Cook finished two yards shy of 400 yards passing as the Spartans rolled to a 26-point victory against Indiana. Both teams head into their bye week?s with the conference?s only 8-0 marks (Iowa will look to join them this week when they host Maryland).
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Outside of those two developments, Northwestern became bowl eligible handing Nebraska another narrow defeat in Lincoln. Wisconsin notched its sixth win behind backup quarterback Bart Houston, while Penn State became bowl eligible with a win in Baltimore against Maryland.
This weekend?s showcase game on BTN has Rutgers making its first ever trip to Camp Randall Stadium to take on Wisconsin at noon ET. The Scarlet Knights are attempting to reach .500, while Wisconsin looks to keep pace in the West division standings.
With four Big Ten teams on the bye this week, here are five facts you should be aware of when you tune into Rutgers at Wisconsin on BTN.
1. The offense will have to return to form for Rutgers in order for the Scarlet Knights to take down Wisconsin. Just a week after posting a season-high 596 yards of offense in a come-from-behind win at Indiana, Rutgers really struggled to get things going against Ohio State at home last weekend. The Scarlet Knights moved the ball down the field on the first drive against the Buckeyes before missing a short field goal and didn?t do much until the final drive in garbage time. If you take away the plays and yards of the first and last drives of the game, Rutgers had 35 plays for 125 yards in its loss to Ohio State. This hasn?t been typical for the Scarlet Knights as they are currently averaging 17.9 ppg in the second half, the second-highest mark of any team in the Big Ten (Ohio State - 22.1). Rutgers has also posted five offensive plays from scrimmage of 50 yards or more this season; tied for the third most in the conference.
2. Wisconsin?s defense continues to make Camp Randall Stadium one of the hardest places to play in the Big Ten. In five games this season played in Madison, the Badgers have allowed just 215.8 yards of offense to their opponents. That is the fourth-lowest mark among all FBS teams. Wisconsin has also held opponents to 10 or fewer points in each of its five home games this year. The last Big Ten team to hold opponents to 10 or fewer points in six-or-more straight home games was Iowa (seven-game streak between October 19, 1985 to October 11, 1986). And it?s hard to score points against a team that doesn?t allow you to get into the red zone. The Badgers have allowed just five red zone touchdowns this season, tied for the second-fewest in the FBS (Appalachian State - 4). In fact, Wisconsin has allowed a total of 23 plays to be run on its side of the 50-yard line in the second half of its four Big Ten games (5.8 plays per game).
3. The Badgers will continue to rely on their pass attack in their attempt to keep racking up wins. Despite losing starting quarterback Joel Stave to a concussion late in the first quarter of last weekend?s matchup at Illinois, backup Bart Houston picked up the slack and continued to run the same offensive scheme that has carried the Badgers to six victories. Both quarterbacks combined for 40 pass attempts and 281 yards through the air. That marked Wisconsin?s fourth game with 40-or-more pass attempts since 2013, something they did only four times over the previous 16 seasons. Until the Badgers are able to establish an effective running game, you can expect them to continue to air it out. After all, Wisconsin is only averaging 152.5 yards per game on the ground, which is their fewest in any season since 1995 (128.9 ypg). Fifteen different players have run the ball this season for the Badgers, the most of any Big Ten team.
4. No active receiver in the Big Ten has had a career like Leonte Carroo. He currently leads the league in receiving yards (2,091), receiving touchdowns (28), games with 100-plus receiving yards (11), and receptions to 25-plus yards (27). Even more impressive, his 28 career receiving touchdowns have come in just 28 career games at wide receiver. Carroo played in 13 games as a true freshman in 2012, but only on special teams. He has averaged a touchdown every 3.82 receptions (107 receptions, 28 touchdowns) in his career. But how about this? Carroo has nine touchdowns this season in 15 quarters played. He has posted ten career multi-receiving TD performances, which is tied with TCU?s Josh Doctson for the most of any active FBS player entering this week?s action.
5. Alex Erickson has made a strong case for Wisconsin?s offensive MVP this year. He equaled his career-high with ten catches for 96 yards with a touchdown in last weekend?s win at Illinois. Erickson also carried the ball four times for a career-high 81 rushing yards, including a career-long run of 56 yards in the third-quarter. He is only the second Wisconsin player in the last 20 seasons to post at least 75 receiving yards and 75 rushing yards in a single game; joining Brian Calhoun (2005) at Northwestern on Oct. 8, 2005. Erickson has now recorded at least seven receptions in each of his last three games. He is the first Wisconsin player to post seven-or-more catches in three straight games since Lee Evans between Oct. 20-Nov. 3, 2001. He currently leads the Big Ten with 29 catches in conference play. No Wisconsin player has led the league in receiving during Big Ten play since Rich Reichardt in 1963.
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