Wisconsin has a bit of a different matchup this week.
First, the Badgers are playing the rare midseason nonconference game. This will be the latest Wisconsin has played a non-Big Ten opponent in the regular season since 2013, when the Badgers hosted BYU on Nov. 9.
Second, Wisconsin’s opponent, Army, isn’t like other college football teams. The Black Knights like to run the ball out of its triple-option offense.
To wit: Army enters Saturday having run the ball 325 times with just 33 pass attempts. Meanwhile, Wisconsin leads the nation in rushing defense (41.4 yards/game and 1.66 yards/carry).
Talk about your immoveable object vs. unstoppable force. It’s going to be fun to see how this one plays out.
Here’s this week’s predictions from around the web:
Pete Fiutak of Collegefootballnews.com: Wisconsin 34, Army 10. "Size isn’t an issue for this Army defensive front seven. There’s just enough bulk to avoid being blasted early, but this is about to be a grind. The little that Army uses its passing game won’t work at all outside of one deep shot out of the blue, and the running game will only have a few decent drives. Over the long haul of the 60 minutes, the Badgers will pound and pound and pound, they’re not going to take any unnecessary chances, and they’ll rely on best run defense in college football to get out of this dangerous game alive.”
Tom Fornelli of CBSSports.com: Wisconsin 28, Army 10. “Wisconsin has plenty of flaws. I'm not here to tell you to ignore them. This is a one-dimensional offense that offers little value in its passing game. It's slow, stodgy and operates with almost not room for error. But it's also a team that's played a challenging schedule. And for as bad as Wisconsin's offense has been, there's never been any question about the defense. Wisconsin enters this contest ranked first in the nation in success rate against the run -- and Georgia still exists in this universe! As an option team, Army has no other reliable way of moving the ball than on the ground. While option offenses can be tricky to prepare for, I have no doubts about Wisconsin's defensive mentality. This game isn't likely to look all that different than Wisconsin's 24-0 win over Illinois last week, except Army should find the end zone once.”
Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller: Wisconsin 27, Army 17.
Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Leader: Wisconsin 20, Illinois 10. “The Badgers play the kind of run defense that should slow down one of college football’s premier rush offenses. Army has come close — but fallen short — in losses to Oklahoma and Michigan. Saturday night, perhaps, is the time. Or, given Wisconsin’s familiarity with running the ball and stopping the run, perhaps it isn’t.”
Chad Leistikow of the Des Moines Register: Wisconsin 24, Army 7. "You've got to love service-academy football. The Black Knights have attempted just 33 passes all season while rushing 325 times. That should bode well for Wisconsin, which has the nation's No. 1 rush defense. The Badgers got back to their ground-and-pound ways (391 rushing yards) last week in a 24-0 shutout of Illinois.”
Chip Minnich of Athlon Sports: Wisconsin 31, Army 17. “So far in 2021, Wisconsin's season has not gone as expected. At 2-3 overall and 1-2 in Big Ten play, the Badgers will need to start racking up the victories if they have any hope of catching Iowa for the West Division title. Playing Army midseason is unorthodox, but a home win over the scrappy Black Knights could provide some momentum as Wisconsin prepares to tackle the remainder of its conference slate.”
Saturday Tradition’s Ryan O’Gara: Wisconsin 28, Illinois 10. “This is the B1G’s only night game this week, and I don’t foresee having to stay up too late to see the end of this one. Army averages 65 rushing attempts per game, and Wisconsin is, well, Wisconsin, only passing if it has to. The Badgers are 115th in passing offense, Army is 129th. So this game should take, what, about 2 hours? Jeff Monken, who always seems to be in the mix for a Power 5 job, is not to be taken lightly as the Black Knights are 13-4 over the last 2 years and nearly won at Michigan in 2019. The big question at Wisconsin is how are the Badgers doing in terms of chemistry after an adversity-filled season, with the latest being the dismissal of last year’s top running back, Jalen Berger?”
Mark Hasty of Go Iowa Awesome: Wisconsin 24, Army 12. “Speaking of teams that can’t afford any more gonks, here comes the 2-3 Wisconsin Badgers, preseason favorites to win the West, now a team in danger of being left at home during bowl season. Entering stage left is Army, triple-option stalwarts capable of making almost any defense look dumb. Maybe not Wisconsin’s, though. The Badger D under Jim Leonhard is legit, it’s the offense that has held the team back. In the Big Ten, only Illinois has scored fewer points. (Hmm …) So this should be a big confidence-booster for Bucky. “
Bob Dunning of Davis Enterprise: Wisconsin.
Joe DiTullio of GameHaus: Wisconsin.
Bill Connelly of ESPN: His S&P+ projection has it Wisconsin 34, Army 12.
All three Athlon Sports analysts are picking Wisconsin to win.