The 12th ranked Michigan Wolverines take on the 15th ranked Wisconsin Badgers in Ann Arbor at 7:30 pm on Saturday. This begins a tough three week stretch for the Wolverines, with games against Wisconsin and Penn State at home and a trip to Michigan State sandwiched between. Michigan continued their upward trajectory last week with a 42-21 victory over Maryland while Wisconsin is coming off a 17 point victory over Nebraska.
Wisconsin offensively is led by preseason All American running back Jonathan Taylor. As a freshman in 2017 he rushed for 1,977 yards and has most of his offensive line still with him in 2018. Four of their five linemen have a great chance at making an All Big Ten team at the end of the season, per usual. In 2018 he’s rushed for 849 yards through five games, averaging 6.7 YPC. Along with Taylor in the backfield, backups Taiwan Deal, Garrett Groshek and fullback Alec Ingold all have over 100 yards on the season while averaging at least 6.2 YPC. Quarterback Alex Hornibook returns to lead the passing attack. He’s not asked to do much, but has been efficient. He’s completing passes at a 64% rate, averaging a solid 8.45 YPA, with 7 scores to 2 interceptions. The receiving corps is thin for a variety of reasons, but leading the way are receiver AJ Taylor and tight end Jake Ferguson. As a unit, the Badgers offense has averaged nearly 34 points a game, but if the Wolverines can contain Taylor somewhat, Wisconsin won’t come near that total.
As a defense, Wisconsin has been their usual stout self. They’re yielding 16.4 points a game, good for 13th best in college football. Their strength lies up the middle, with tackle Olive Sagapolu and linebackers TJ Edwards and Ryan Connelly leading the way. Safeties Scott Nelson and D’Cota Dixon are playmakers, combining for 50 tackles on the season to go with 2 forced fumbles, an interception and 7 pass breakups. The pass rush has been unremarkable, with only 5 sacks through 5 games. They’re giving up 4.4 YPC on the ground as a team and 7.63 YPA through the air, so expect the Wolverines to stick with what got them here. A balanced attack of Karan Higdon off the left side and taking calculated shots in the passing game could lead to another efficient day moving the ball.
This feels like the kind of game Wolverine fans have grown accustomed to coming up short in. A game against a quality opponent, that on paper, Michigan is better than. Having this one at home is a huge help for the Wolverines and the crowd should be raucous for the late kickoff. It’s a matchup that the program needs to win to begin to help change the narrative surrounding the Harbaugh era, and they’ll get it done in a low scoring game. The defense will do enough to limit chunk plays from Jonathan Taylor and Shea Patterson will continue his growth in the offense, with Zach Gentry having a big day.
Matchup to Watch
Michigan front 7 vs Wisconsin rushing attack
Make Hornibrook beat you.
Final Score Prediction
Michigan 20 Wisconsin 16