BYU-Wisconsin Preview

The Associated Press

Wisconsin's success stems from employing a dangerous running back tandem.

BYU is winning with one of the nation's top running quarterbacks paired with a talented tailback.

The only FBS programs to boast two players who average at least 100 rushing yards a game square off Saturday when the 21st-ranked Badgers host the surging Cougars.

There seemingly shouldn't be a lot of surprises when the offenses are on the field given Wisconsin ranks 10th in the FBS in rushing, averaging 287.0 yards, and BYU is 14th at 258.8.

The Badgers are led by Melvin Gordon, who averages 134.3 rushing yards to rank sixth in the FBS and 8.7 per carry to rank fifth, while James White adds 100.5 per game. The Cougars, meanwhile, have quarterback Taysom Hill rushing for 105.1 per game while fellow sophomore Jamaal Williams is at 104.7.

"It's typical BYU," Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said. "They'll take their best players and put them in position to make plays. That's absolutely no surprise."

The Badgers (6-2) proved they could win last week despite having a subpar game from their leading rusher.

After running for 314 yards over the previous two games, Gordon was limited to a season-low 62 on 17 carries last Saturday against Iowa. White, though, ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns on 19 attempts while the defense forced two second-half turnovers in a 28-9 win.

It was the third straight victory for Wisconsin, which became bowl eligible for a 12th consecutive year.

The Cougars (6-2) became bowl eligible for a ninth consecutive season with a 37-20 victory over Boise State on Oct. 25, their fifth win in a row. Williams rushed for 107 yards, Hill ran for 69 and a touchdown, and the defense forced four turnovers.

BYU, coming off a bye, has forced 12 turnovers in the last four games.

"Our defense is really good," Hill said. "If we come out and execute offensively, we have an opportunity to do that against anybody we play."

The Cougars are averaging 38.0 points during their winning streak, and Hill is keeping teams off balance by showing he can also put the ball in the air. He threw for 339 yards and three scores against the Broncos after passing for 417 yards and four touchdowns the previous week.

He might be asked to throw a bit more again considering the Badgers are fifth in the FBS against the run, surrendering an average of 91.0 yards.

"He's competitive," Andersen said of Hill. "He's tough minded. But his feet are definitely a weapon, and he's big, and he's strong. He runs the ball at times like a running back."

Andersen is hopeful he'll have star linebacker Chris Borland back after he was sidelined last week because of a hamstring injury. The senior has a team-high 57 tackles and two sacks, and the defense could use his leadership going up against the high-powered Cougars.

"They are fast, they pace you like crazy and they get up and down the field," Andersen said. "The one thing I will say about BYU is they will mix up the pace, so it's not always pedal-to-the-metal every snap. It's on and off, back and forth a little bit. So we've got to practice that, we've got to be conscious of it.

"The key is to not get worn out. You watch the teams they play, they get physically tired and BYU does a lot of great plays. And there are a lot of missed tackles in the BYU games, especially late in drives."

The Badgers, playing their first game in Madison since Oct. 12, have reeled off 28 straight home wins over non-conference teams - the second-longest active streak among FBS programs.

This is only the second meeting between the schools, with BYU winning 28-3 at Wisconsin on Sept. 20, 1980. Andersen will be coaching against the Cougars for a 10th straight season, however, having previously faced them as an assistant at Utah and as the coach at Utah State.

"Having BYU on the schedule was probably one of the most shocking things that I looked at when I took this job," Andersen said. "They followed me all the way here."

What to Read Next