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Hello Wisconsin!: Badgers' backs, receivers preview

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Braelon Allen (Wisconsin)

Wisconsin Badgers running back Braelon Allen (0) carries the ball during an NCAA Big Ten Conference college football game against the Northwestern Wildcats Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, in Evanston, Ill. The Badgers won 42-7. (Photo by David Stluka/Wisconsin Athletic Communications)

The 95th ranked rush defense in the country, lacking some of its better players from the 2022 season, will line up against one of the best running backs in the country.

No matter Wisconsin’s current quarterback situation — with neither Chase Wolf and Myles Burkett having much experience — OSU’s very poor defense will still have a tough task stopping the Badger offense in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl next Tuesday.

As a 17-year-old, Braelon Allen burst onto the field as a freshman last season, running for 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns on only 186 attempts. The reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year slowed down a bit in 2022, but still averaged more than five yards per carry and found the endzone 10 times.

After a 6-6 regular season and a coaching change halfway through it, Wisconsin saw a few of its starters enter the transfer portal. There were rumors — as is the nature of college football, star players and the transfer portal — but Allen didn’t even think of it as a possibility.

“I never was in the portal,” Allen said. “I was here the whole time. I was just waiting to get to know coach Fickell and to learn about his plan.”

When new Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell was hired, one of his first recruiting visits was to his starting running back, hoping he would return to Madison for a third season.

“I think we have a pretty good connection and I'm happy to say I think he believes and trusts in what we’re going to do,” Fickell said.

Behind Allen is Chez Mellusi and Isaac Guerendo, who both rushed for nearly 400 yards this season, but the latter of who entered the transfer portal. So if Allen needs a break, expect Mellusi.

The primary pass catcher is receiver Chimere Dike, who posted 653 yards and six touchdowns on the season, with only 44 receptions. A look into the advanced metrics, Dike is similar to Biletnikoff award winner Jalin Hyatt.

Other than Dike, Skyler Bell is a young pass catcher who shows big-play potential when he’s targeted, and Keontez Lewis, a former transfer from UCLA.

It’s still undetermined who will coach the offense in the bowl game, or who will be under-center, but OSU’s defense must not underestimate a talented, yet underperforming Wisconsin offense in Phoenix.