RUSH OFFENSE vs. WISCONSIN RUSH DEFENSE
Michigan is #30 in rushing offense (208 yards/game), and that ranking comes after 865 yards and 11 touchdowns over the past three games. The Wolverines are tied for #41 in rushing average (4.91 yards/carry) and tied for #34 in rushing touchdowns. A couple of those stats are made more impressive by the fact that Michigan has generally struggled to pass the ball all season. Michigan’s offensive line is #10 in Adjusted Line Yards and #35 in Standard Down Line Yards, so they’re doing okay. Starting running back Karan Higdon (854 yards, 6.62 yards/carry, 10 TDs) left last week’s Maryland game with an ankle injury, but he is expected to return; he has two 200-yard games this season. Meanwhile, right guard Michael Onwenu is also expected back from injury. Wisconsin is #1 nationally in rush defense (81.5 yards allowed/game), and they have allowed fewer than 100 yards to six out of ten opponents so far. The most productive running team against them was Nebraska, who had 110 yards and averaged 4.23 yards/carry. Linebacker Ryan Connelly (6’3″, 228 lbs.) leads the team with 55 tackles, and seven of the top nine tacklers are linebackers in their base 3-4 defense. Six players have between 5.5 and 9.5 tackles for loss, led by senior outside linebacker Garret Dooley (6’3″, 246). The team is tied at #31 with 69 tackles for loss this season. Michigan has run the ball better than some people give them credit for this season, but it’s an offense still finding its way against the #1 run-stuffing defense in the nation.
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PASS OFFENSE vs. WISCONSIN PASS DEFENSE
Michigan is tied for #112 – with Brady Hoke’s Tennessee Volunteers – in passing offense with 165.2 yards/game. The Wolverines are #107 in passer rating. It’s not good. Quarterback Brandon Peters – the third-stringer to begin the year – is completing 60.9% of his passes with 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He has been solid, but Michigan doesn’t have much at the receiver position and can’t pass block for very long. For a point of reference, freshman wideout Tarik Black was catching 3.7 passes a game before he got injured. Tight end Sean McKeon (2.5) and slot receiver Grant Perry (2.4) are next highest on that list, and Michigan’s biggest big-play threat, tight end Zach Gentry, catches just 1.2 passes per game. Michigan is tied for #105 in sacks allowed with 27 so far this year. Wisconsin is tied for #4 in sacks (35 so far), with Dooley (6.5), Van Ginkel (5.5), and defensive end Alec James (5.5) leading the charge. They’re #7 in pass defense (156.8 yards allowed/game) and #1 in passer rating defense. They have allowed 8 touchdowns but have made 15 interceptions this year, tying for #7 nationally. Senior safety Joe Ferguson (6’1″, 195) and junior linebacker T.J. Edwards (6’1″, 244) each have 4 interceptions and 1 touchdown, and the Badgers have 4 pick-sixes altogether. Starting safety D’Cota Dixon is questionable for the game, so that may provide some relief, but overall this is not a good matchup for the Wolverines. The Badgers can get after the quarterback, they’re very physical with their coverage, and Michigan doesn’t have many threats in the passing game.
RUSH DEFENSE vs. WISCONSIN RUSH OFFENSE
Michigan is #9 in rush defense (110.3 yards allowed/game) and #13 in yards allowed per carry (3.27). Last week was Michigan’s second-worst performance of the year when they gave up 180 rushing yards on 5.63 yards/carry against Maryland. Sophomore linebacker Devin Bush, Jr. leads the team with 82 tackles, and second is senior weakside linebacker Mike McCray II with 60. Linebacker/safety Khaleke Hudson (14.0), defensive end Chase Winovich (14.0), and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, Jr. (12.5) all have double-digit tackles for loss, a category that Michigan places #3 in across the country. The Badgers are #17 in rushing offense (245 yards/game) and they’re tied at #22 in rushing average (5.17 yards/carry). Freshman running back Jonathan Taylor is #3 in the country in rushing yards (1,525) and averages 6.96 yards/carry, but the dropoff is significant to #2 guy Bradrick Shaw, who averages 3.9 yards/carry. Wisconsin’s offensive line is #20 in Adjusted Line Yards and #17 in Standard Down Line Yards. The offensive line averages 6’6″ and 326.5 pounds. The bad news for fans of other Big Ten teams is that two of the five guys are redshirt juniors . . . and the other three are redshirt sophomores. That’s right – they’re top-20 in run blocking and rush offense, and they’re doing it behind a group of linemen that can all return next season. This is a very difficult matchup to project, but I think Wisconsin can wear down Michigan’s defensive front because the Wolverines aren’t very deep.
PASS DEFENSE vs. WISCONSIN PASS OFFENSE
Michigan is the #2 pass defense in the nation (144.5 yards allowed/game), behind only Air Force. The Wolverines have the #3 passer efficiency rating defense. According to Pro Football Focus, both starting cornerbacks – David Long and Lavert Hill – are in the top five in passer rating allowed against them. Both players have 2 interceptions, and Long returned one 80 yards last week. The problem? Hill suffered a concussion and might miss Saturday’s game. If so, he’ll be replaced by redshirt junior Brandon Watson. Michigan is tied for #6 in sacks with 33, paced by Winovich with 7. Comparatively, the safeties and inside linebackers have been the weak spots, but it’s a good pass D all around. On the other side, Wisconsin is #6 in passing offense (188.1 yards/game), but they’re #12 in passing efficiency. Despite the high PER, quarterback Alex Hornibrook (6’4″, 215) has thrown the second-most interceptions in the Big Ten (12), behind only Nebraska’s Tanner Lee. Hornibrook has thrown 17 TDs and averages 9.0 yards/attempt, so he hits some big plays. Unfortunately for the Badgers, they’ll be without leading receiver Quintez Cephus (30 catches, 501 yards, 6 TDs) and last year’s leading receiver Jazz Peevy (5 catches, 55 yards) due to injury. The primary target will be senior tight end Troy Fumagalli (6’6″, 248), who has 33 catches for 422 yards and 3 scores, but freshman wideout Danny Davis III (6’0″, 186) averages a little over 20 yards/catch and can hurt teams on play action. Wisconsin is #24 in sacks allowed, but they’re #95 in Adjusted Sack Rate. Michigan is going to need to make some plays in the defensive passing game – interceptions, sacks, forced fumbles, etc. – if they want to pull the upset.
- Wisconsin players recruited by Michigan include: OT Tyler Beach, OT Logan Bruss, QB Jack Coan, OT Alex Fenton, OG Kayden Lyles, S Scott Nelson, OT Cole Van Lanen
- Wisconsin players from the State of Michigan: Northville OL David Moorman, U of D Jesuit S Scott Nelson
- Michigan players from the State of Wisconsin: OG Ben Bredeson, TE Conner Edmonds
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED . . .
- Michigan 14, Wisconsin 7 in 2016
- Michigan held QB Alex Hornibrook to 9/25 passing for 88 yards, 1 TD, and 3 INTs
- Michigan CB Jourdan Lewis made one of the most amazing interceptions in school history
- Michigan CB Channing Stribling made 2 interceptions
- Michigan OT Grant Newsome shredded his knee and nearly lost his leg
- Michigan runs for 150 yards
- The referees blow a crucial call
- Wisconsin runs over Michigan in the second half
- Wisconsin 23, Michigan 13
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