7:30 PM EST, ABC – Line: Michigan -9, Over/Under: 49
Big Ten powerhouses clash this weekend in Ann Arbor, as the Fifteenth-Ranked Wisconsin Badgers battle the Twelfth-Ranked Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium in a matchup that will go a long way towards shaping the outcome of the league. Since being upset at Camp Randall Stadium by a surprising BYU team (21-24), Wisconsin (4-1, 2-0 in Big Ten) seems to have rounded into their typical form now that they’re in the midst of conference play, winning their first two Big Ten contests with relative ease. First came a trip to Kinnick Stadium, where the visiting Badgers squared off against Iowa, overcoming a slow start in route to a hard-fought 28-17 victory. Trailing 7-10 midway through the Third Quarter, Paul Chryst’s charges went to work outscoring the hosts 21-7 the rest of the way, including 14-0 inside the final minute of play; Alex Hornibrook (17-of-22, 205 YDS, 3 TD) found A.J. Taylor (3 REC, 44 YDS, 1 TD) for a 17-Yard Touchdown with just 0:57 remaining in the game to take the lead, followed by a dramatic 33-Yard Alec Ingold (2 CAR, 37 YDS, 1 TD) Rushing Touchdown to seal the deal with Twenty-Two Seconds left in the final frame of play. At the end of the day, it was about as balanced an effort as one could imagine, as the visiting side amassed 415 Total Yards (210 Rushing, 205 Passing), while the Defense bent a good deal (404 Total Yards allowed) but refused to break, forcing three crucial Turnovers that swung the outcome of the tilt in their favor. Fortunately, the following weekend’s meeting with winless Nebraska proved to be far less arduous, as Wisconsin unleashed an early blitzkrieg on the visitors, establishing an early 20-3 advantage heading into Halftime, on their way to an easy 41-24 victory. This one was classic Badgers Football, folks, with the home side rolling up a whopping 370 Rushing Yards on Forty-Eight Carries, led by stud Sophomore Tailback Jonathan Taylor’s 221 Yards and Three Touchdowns on Twenty-Four Carries, while Taiwan Deal (10 CAR, 74 YDS, 1 TD) and Garret Groshek (9 CAR, 73 YDS) combined for another 147 Yards on Nineteen Carries. However, for the second consecutive week, the Badgers’ Defense was gashed for an unhealthy amount of yardage, which is something that Chryst and his Coaching Staff must be wary of heading into this weekend’s matchup with the Wolverines. Against Iowa, they were fortunate enough to register Three Takeaways despite yielding over 400 Total Yards, and if it wasn’t for Nebraska’s self-destructive nature (10 Penalties for 100 Yards), then that particular contest would’ve been much closer than it ended up. And with that said, the Gameplan remains as simple as ever for this team, control the tempo with a Rushing Attack that is equal parts punishing and explosive, while sitting back defensively and waiting to exploit the opposition’s mistakes. On the season, the Badgers have averaged 480.2 Total Yards of Offense, with a whopping 287.0 of that figure coming courtesy of the Run, with the aforementioned Taylor (126 CAR, 849 YDS, 6.7 Y/C, 8 TD) accounting for 169.8 of that number. When these teams met last year in Madison, Wisconsin, the Fifth-Ranked Hosts awoke in the Second Half, scoring Seventeen Points of the contest over the final Nineteen Minutes of play to cap a tough 24-10 victory. Taylor ran 132 Yards on Nineteen Carries, while Hornibrook struggled on 9-of-19 Passing for 143 Yards, with a Touchdown and an Interception. The Defense really proved to be decisive on that day, relegating the Wolverines to a scant 234 Total Yards, including just Fifty-Eight Rushing Yards despite a staggering Thirty-Seven Carries. Since being named Head Coach in 2015, Chryst has gone 1-1 against Michigan, with last year’s victory coupled with a 7-14 defeat in his only trip to the Big House occupying his resume’.
Meanwhile, after falling short in their Season Opening Loss to what appears to be a very good Notre Dame team in South Bend, Michigan (5-1, 3-0 in Big Ten) has managed to right the ship with five consecutive victories, though the majority of them have come against weaker competition. Needless to say, this weekend’s affair with No. 15 Wisconsin is an important one a variety of levels for a team that desperately needs to keep pace with mortal foe Ohio State, and for their Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, who could certainly use an impressive victory over a ranked, conference foe to alleviate the mounting pressure that has been building over the past few months. Dating back to last season, Harbaugh’s charges haven’t bested a ranked opponent since toppling No. 17 Florida on a neutral field in the 2017 Season Opener, having lost four consecutive matchups against ranked opponents, with that list serving as a proverbial who’s who of their bitter rivals, including Penn State (13-42), Wisconsin (10-24), Ohio State (20-31), and Notre Dame (17-24). Of course, many of their struggles last year came down to the play at the game’s most important position, Quarterback, where once Wilton Speight (who has since transferred to UCLA) went down to injury, descended into chaos, with Michigan clearly not appearing to be the same team that they were beforehand. This season though, appears to be trending in the opposite direction, thanks to emergence of Shea Patterson (68.8%, 197.8 Y/G, 8.6 Y/A, 10 TD, 3 INT) under Center, a Mississippi Transfer, who has solidified himself as the team’s Starter. Patterson was granted his release from Ole Miss due to the sanctions levied upon their program, and has really flourished under Harbaugh’s tutelage since arriving in Ann Arbor; since initially struggling against he Fighting Irish’s staunch Defense, the Junior has completed higher than 68.0% of his Passes in all but one of his following five starts, and tossing Three Touchdowns on three occasions, including last weekend’s 42-21 romp over Maryland. The Offense was really clicking against the Terrapins, with Patterson leading the completing 19-of-27 Attempts for 282 Yards, Three Touchdowns and an Interception, as the Wolverines as a whole amassed 465 Total Yards of Offense. On the season, Michigan has averaged 38.2 Points per Game (30th Overall) on 420.7 Total Yards, including 220.8 Yards through the air and another 199.8 Yards on the ground. Senior tailback Karan Higdon (101 CAR, 582 YDS, 5.8 Y/C, 5 TD) has led the Rushing Attack, while Sophomore Receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (18 REC, 217 YDS, 12.1 Y/R, 5 TD) has already hauled in Five Touchdowns thus far. With that said, all eyes will be on Michigan’s Defense, particularly their Run Defense, which is always going to be priority No. One (and possibly No. Two as well) against the Badgers. Through Six contests, this Defense has been very stout against the Run, permitting the opposition to average just 96.5 Yards on the ground on a mere 2.6 Yards per Carry. Maryland was the first opponent all season to post 4.0 Yards per Carry against them, with the previous two, Nebraska (30 CAR, 39 YDS, 1.3 Y/C) and Northwestern (34 CAR, 28 YDS, 0.2 Y/C), combining for just Sixty-Seven Yards on Sixty-Four Carries. The Wolverines have routinely penetrated the Line of Scrimmage, totaling a whopping Fifty-Four Tackles for Loss throughout the first six games, with Senior Defensive End Chase Winovich (29 TKL, 9.5 TFL, 3.0 SK, 1 PD) accounting for 9.5 Tackles for Loss to go along with 3.0 Sacks.