116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MADISON, WIS. — Iowa has a familiar foe on its slate for Saturday as it faces Wisconsin for the 95th time in program history.
Here are five Wisconsin players, some more familiar with Iowa than others, to watch:
RB Chez Mellusi
Wisconsin once again has a premier running back leading its offense.
This time, it’s Chez Mellusi.
Mellusi, a transfer from Clemson, has averaged 5.0 yards per carry in his first season donning cardinal red and white.
His 692 rushing yards are the best in the Big Ten West.
The 5-foot-11 running back has a history of making big plays, too. He turned a run up the middle against Eastern Michigan on a second-and-2 into a 60-yard run.
He had a 35-yard run against then-No. 25 Purdue as well.
When Mellusi rushes for at least 125 yards, the Badgers are 3-0. When he doesn’t hit that mark, they are 1-3.
The junior has a heavy workload. He already has more rushing attempts in his first seven games at Wisconsin than in his two seasons at Clemson combined.
RB Braelon Allen
Mellusi isn’t the only running back for opponents to worry about.
Backup running back Braelon Allen is in the midst of a freshman season that other running backs would dream about.
Allen has recorded 428 rushing yards on 58 attempts, averaging an impressive 7.4 yards per carry.
His five rushing touchdowns lead the Badgers and are tied with Iowa’s Tyler Goodson and Northwestern’s Evan Hull for third-best in the Big Ten West.
Allen has been especially playing well in October, rushing for at least 100 yards in his last three games.
He had a career-high 140 rushing yards on just 12 attempts last Saturday against Purdue although he also fumbled twice.
Allen, who played safety in high school, is quite the weightlifter, too.
He tweeted a video of him lifting what appears to be 455 pounds for five repetitions during the summer before his senior year of high school.
Saturday will be his first time playing Iowa, although he’s familiar with the program. The Hawkeyes offered him a scholarship before the Fond Du Lac, Wis., prospect decided to stay in-state.
LB Jack Sanborn
Jack Sanborn is certainly not a new threat on Wisconsin’s defense.
The senior linebacker is second on the team with 48 tackles and tied for first with 6.5 tackles for loss. His 28 unassisted tackles are a team-best.
The 2020 Duke’s Mayo Bowl MVP earned recognition with several preseason watch lists, including for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy that goes to the best defensive player in college football.
ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Sanborn last month as the seventh-best inside linebacker in the 2022 draft class.
LB Leo Chenal
Leo Chenal hasn’t received the same NFL Draft attention as Sanborn, but his 2021 stats have been better.
Chenal leads the Badgers with 51 tackles, shares the lead for tackles for loss with Sanborn and is responsible for almost a third of Wisconsin’s sacks.
The junior from Grantsburg, Wis., also forced fumbles in Wisconsin’s loss to Notre Dame and win over Army.
QB Graham Mertz
Graham Mertz is on this list for a different reason from the other four players.
Mertz could be Iowa’s most dangerous weapon on Saturday. Yes, Iowa’s.
The Wisconsin quarterback has thrown two touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2021.
Mertz attempted more than 15 passes in four games this season. In three of those games, he threw at least one interception.
He dazzled fans in Wisconsin’s 2020 season opener against Illinois, completing 20 of 21 passes, throwing five touchdowns and finishing the day without an interception.
He hasn’t been the same since then, though, recording six touchdowns and 11 interceptions and completing 60 percent or more of his passes in just four of his 13 starts.
That’s likely welcome news for an Iowa secondary that calls itself the “Dough Boys” and has 16 interceptions.
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