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  5. Despite losing RB Mellusi to season-ending knee injury, No. 20 Wisconsin seeks to stay hot as it hosts Northwestern
Despite losing  RB Mellusi to season-ending knee injury, No. 20 Wisconsin seeks to stay hot as it hosts Northwestern

Despite losing RB Mellusi to season-ending knee injury, No. 20 Wisconsin seeks to stay hot as it hosts Northwestern

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Northwestern (3-6, 1-4 Big Ten) at No. 20 Wisconsin (6-3, 4-2, No. 18 CFP), Saturday at noon EST (ESPN2).

Line: Wisconsin by 24 ½, according to FanDuel Sportsbook

Series record: Wisconsin leads 28-15-2.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Wisconsin is seeking to win its sixth straight and maintain at least a share of first place in the Big Ten West Division. The Badgers are tied for the division lead with Minnesota, No. 19 Iowa and Purdue. Northwestern is attempting to beat Wisconsin for the third time in four years.

BIG LOSS

Wisconsin running back Chez Mellusi will miss the rest of the season with an injured left knee, leaving the 20th-ranked Badgers without their leading rusher. Mellusi, a Clemson transfer, suffered the injury in the third quarter of Wisconsin’s 52-3 victory at Rutgers on Saturday.

Coach Paul Chryst said Thursday that Mellusi won’t play again this season and likely wouldn’t be available for spring practice either.

Mellusi had rushed for 815 yards this season to rank fifth in the Big Ten. He had 173 carries to rank second in the Big Ten and 13th among all Football Bowl Subdivision players.

KEY MATCHUP

Wisconsin’s running game vs. Northwestern’s run defense. This looks like a mismatch. Wisconsin ranks second in the Big Ten and 13th nationally in yards rushing per game (222.56). Northwestern ranks 124th out of 130 FBS teams in yards rushing allowed per game. The Wildcats are allowing a whopping 5.4 yards per carry. Northwestern has a decent chance at keeping this game close if it holds Wisconsin’s rushing attack in check.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Northwestern: QB Andrew Marty. Marty made his second career start and first this season against Iowa after replacing Ryan Hilinski during a blowout loss to Minnesota the previous week. The senior completed 25 of 44 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown, though he was also intercepted three times.

Wisconsin: RB Braelon Allen has rushed for over 100 yards in each of his last five games and has run for a total of 612 yards during that stretch. Before Wisconsin’s five-game winning streak, Allen had totaled just 12 carries in the Badgers’ first four games.

FACTS & FIGURES

Wisconsin is rushing for 270 yards per game during its winning streak. … Wisconsin leads the nation in total defense (213.8) as well as run defense (54.7). … Northwestern ranks just 106th in total offense. … Northwestern has beaten Wisconsin three times since Paul Chryst took over as the Badgers’ coach in 2015. No other Big Ten West Division team has defeated the Badgers that often during Chryst’s tenure. … Although Northwestern has won eight of the last 15 games in this series, Wisconsin has won six of the last seven meetings in Madison. Northwestern’s lone road win during that stretch was a 13-7 decision in 2015. … Northwestern beat Wisconsin 17-7 last year in Evanston. Northwestern was ranked 19th and Wisconsin 10th at the time, making it the Wildcats’ first win over a top-10 team since 2011.


TOP PHOTO: FILE – Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen heads for the end zone for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Illinois on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)


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