Preview: Michigan at Wisconsin

Preview: Michigan at Wisconsin


November 17, 2017

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.
Advantage: Wisconsin

Hit the jump for the rest of the preview.

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.
Advantage: Wisconsin

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.
Advantage: Wisconsin

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.
Advantage: Michigan

ROSTER NOTES

  • 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

PREDICTIONS

  • Michigan runs for 150 yards
  • The referees blow a crucial call
  • Wisconsin runs over Michigan in the second half
  • Wisconsin 23, Michigan 13

33 comments

  1. Comments: 976
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Roanman
    Nov 17, 2017 at 6:57 AM

    I really like the Badgers in general and mostly am always rooting for them, but …

    They have a long standing tradition of playing nobody in the pre conference, then, now that the conference is split, they spend the majority of the conference season in the west. Occasionally, they come out and are for real a win the conference, but mostly they don’t have the QB to get them home.

    If I’m a Wisconsin fan, i’m real happy that they’re mostly healthy having lost beau coup LBs in camp and are deep pretty much everywhere except ….. QB. Hornibrook is going to have to prove it to me.

    This would be a real good game for Mone to step up and be somebody.

    • Comments: 976
      Joined: 8/13/2015
      Roanman
      Nov 17, 2017 at 7:23 AM

      Never post before coffee.

      • GKblue
        Comments: 235
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        GKblue
        Nov 17, 2017 at 8:15 AM

        I have to agree on both generally liking Whisky ( Walling off the state and making good use of available talent within their system.) and my likelihood of pre-coffee posting snafu’s.

        I think that a healthy Wisconsin simply out mans us. Getting any mo in their stadium will be tough if the crowd gets to us and you know they will try.

        In order to beat them tomorrow we have to win the turnover game. We cannot make unforced errors. We must hit our FG attempts.
        We must move the chains enough to give our D a blow.

        • gobluetwo
          Comments: 31
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          gobluetwo
          Nov 17, 2017 at 9:19 AM

          So you’re telling us that you like whiskey and coffee? Good man.

          They’re forecast a rain/snow mix with temps in the mid-30s up until about gametime. Weather hopefully won’t be too big of a factor, but ball and field could be a bit slick early on. Plays into their running game plan, but hopefully that also forces Hornibrook into some poor throws. Trenches – especially our DL vs their OL – will be critical.

  2. crazyjoedavola
    Comments: 198
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    crazyjoedavola
    Nov 17, 2017 at 7:57 AM

    I think that people will be disappointed with how the defense will look in this game and the following one.

  3. Comments: 762
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Nov 17, 2017 at 9:35 AM

    I don’t think I’ve read one favorable prediction. I was curious if we matched up better anywhere, and Thunder likes our passD over their passO; what if Hill is out?
    I don’t feel good on this one. Maybe 7-7 in the second half, but agree they’ll likely wear us down
    7-27

  4. Comments: 68
    Joined: 9/28/2015
    PapaBear
    Nov 17, 2017 at 9:38 AM

    ** Wisconsin’s center may not start. This will help UM’s defense immensely.

    Question: How is Wisconsin better than UM? Coaching? Recruiting a certain type of kid? System? All of this? Did I answer my own question? Are these coaches better than Harbaugh and Don Brown?

    The defense will look fine! The offense must score or minimally, take time off the clock to rest the D.

    • Comments: 140
      Joined: 8/12/2015
      coachernie
      Nov 17, 2017 at 7:49 PM

      they are better for one reason and only one reason….
      .. the weakest schedule ever !

    • Comments: 762
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      je93
      Nov 17, 2017 at 8:31 PM

      Sparty was playing with a 2star TrFr RG. We got zero turnovers and no sacks

      Wisconsin is better this year. We were better last year, and will likely be better again next year, once we have experienced Receivers to go with our QB and run game

  5. JC
    Comments: 147
    Joined: 8/17/2015
    JC
    Nov 17, 2017 at 10:30 AM

    I think Harbaugh needs to pick up a win against a team with a winning record on the road to settle the unreal expectations of the majority of our fanbase.

    So if that’s this game, I’m praying we have two big plays, like an 80 yard TD run up the gut, and a blown coverage go route for an 80 yard DPJ or Gentry TD… and then maybe a defensive touchdown or two…. for a nice 28 – 24 victory.

    1% CHANCE WE MAKE THE BIG CHAMPIONSHIP GAME!

  6. Lanknows
    Comments: 3611
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Nov 17, 2017 at 12:32 PM

    If there’s one thing Don Brown does it’s shut down running games. Our DL is deep, with Solomon and Dwumfour rising and Furbush subbing in packages. Mone’s a backup again. He was built for this.

    Need Harbaugh to come up with enough clever playcalls to offset homefield & referees. Biggest uncertainty is if the run game translates to a (probably) tough run D.

    I usually trust the advanced stats but in Wisconsin’s case they seem off. Irregularities may have flummoxed the algorithms. Errors may be getting compounded. The Big Ten in general has wonky outcomes affecting the rankings this year (Iowa crushing OSU, MSU getting 2 critical rainstorms, Michigan transforming midseason into a good to excellent running team.) but particular to the Badger’s is their outlier-weak schedule for so late in the year. Their data would seem to have an early-season uncertainty to it without meaningful competition.

    But the most egregious example is that Wisconsin’s lofty rankings factor in a #19 ranking for FAU. FAU may indeed be much better than their results indicate but that’s flat-out unbelievable.

    Sam Webb says Michigan is preaching the backyard brawl toughness manhood thing to the team.

    I like our chances.

    Excepting a close low-scoring game, something close to last year;s result. Keep in mind our guys should have won by much more last year – with 3 drives marred by missed FGs and Wisc’s only score coming on a 31-yard drive after an INT. Last year meant nothing for PSU but I suspect that Wisconsin’s not nearly as good.

    Hopefully it’s time for a signature upset. Make the Harbaugh-haters go on to the next thing.

    • Comments: 140
      Joined: 8/12/2015
      coachernie
      Nov 17, 2017 at 7:53 PM

      Yeah, not sure why someone would say we are not deep on the DL?
      Silly statement or just plain raw ignorance. The young guys have all played significant snaps… Solomon, Dwumfor plus (experienced)Mone and are more than good enough to spell the starters.
      Coach Brown will tell you just that as well.

      • Comments: 2275
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Nov 17, 2017 at 9:09 PM

        Literally every team has backup defensive linemen who get quality snaps. There’s no way around it. That doesn’t mean they’re productive.

        Michigan’s backup DL this year have combined for 4 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. By comparison, last year’s backup DL had 18.5 TFLs and 7.5 sacks. Granted, that’s 13 games in 2016 compared to 10 so far in 2017, but clearly the backup DL aren’t on a pace to achieve those numbers.

        For another comparison point, Ohio State’s backup DL have 20.5 TFLs and 6 sacks – and they’re behind Michigan in both categories overall.

        So yeah, we don’t have a great deal of depth. Solomon, Mone, Dwumfour, Kemp, etc. are basically just bodies right now.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3611
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Nov 17, 2017 at 10:42 PM

        Michigan’s DL last year is not a reasonable standard to compare against.

        Like comparing DBs to Woodson or QBs to Brady.

        • Comments: 2275
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Nov 17, 2017 at 10:54 PM

          Oh, okay. How about 2015 when the backup DL had 12.5 TFLs and 3.5 sacks? How about in 2014 when the backup DL had 18.5 TFLs and 7 sacks?

          Or we can go back to 2013 when…Michigan was #82 in TFLs and #64 in sacks, and the backups had about the same numbers that they do now.

          Bottom line: We’re not getting much production from the backup defensive linemen. It’s not an insult – several of them are young (Solomon, Paye, Kemp, Dwumfour, etc.) and still finding their way. But it’s the truth.

          • GKblue
            Comments: 235
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            GKblue
            Nov 18, 2017 at 8:29 AM

            I think many were hoping that by now Mone, post injury, would be making more of an impact.

            Anyone who thought that there would be no drop off with Soloman and Dwumfour right away were using a bit of wishful thinking.

            All these guys you mentioned Thunder have had the benefit of some S&C and some experience. Now would be a good time for them to show up, we will need them.

            • Comments: 762
              Joined: 1/19/2016
              je93
              Nov 18, 2017 at 10:46 AM

              This is Mone’s best game, book it!

              • Comments: 762
                Joined: 1/19/2016
                je93
                Nov 18, 2017 at 4:13 PM

                Did Mone even play today?

                • Comments: 2275
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Nov 18, 2017 at 4:20 PM

                  Yeah, he played a fair amount. He’s not very good.

                • Comments: 762
                  Joined: 1/19/2016
                  je93
                  Nov 18, 2017 at 5:06 PM

                  His uniform was pretty clean in the 4th

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 3611
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Nov 18, 2017 at 11:13 AM

              I would argue they’ve already shown up. Mone is solid at worst and Solomon surging ahead of him is great for Michigan.

              But yes, a dropoff in depth from last year was a given. Pulling in Hurst, Gary on Winovich off the bench is just unfair. I don’t expect to see a backup DL that good in my lifetime.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3611
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Nov 18, 2017 at 10:46 AM

            That’s much better.

            The bigger issue is the assertion that a lack of production equates to a lack of depth. Not true for example with NE Patriots backup QB this year. Goes for many other positions/sports.

            Obviously our DL backups are playing less than in years past but the frequent use of the 3-3-5 is playing into that, as is the excellence of the starters – including at least 2 and maybe 3 1st round NFL picks.

            And yeah, our backups are no longer named Hurst/Gary/Winovich or going back to 2015 Charlton/Hurst/Godin. Is that really a problem? Wouldn’t 95% of teams gladly take Mone/Dwumfour/Kemp/Furbush as backup DL?

            We have 3 elite players on the DL. Behind them are 3 guys who essentially rotate snaps over the course of the year – Solomon/Furbush/Mone. Each of them have started and each of them has played well on what ranks as a very good defense.

            That is depth. Quibble about the 7th and 8th guys if you want. If beating those guys is Wisconsin’s key to success the Badgers will lose.

            • Comments: 762
              Joined: 1/19/2016
              je93
              Nov 18, 2017 at 10:51 AM

              Teams like Indiana pounced on the lineup of Mone/Dwumfour/Kemp/Furbush
              I think that’s what Thunder means about depth: they’re not awful, but can’t be in the field against ohio… That makes them a liability

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 3611
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Nov 18, 2017 at 11:09 AM

              Wisconsin and Indiana are not alike. Mone is a much better fit here and Solomon has emerged as a starter since that game.

              Anyway, I don’t agree with the premise. Indiana ran for a total of 80 yards at 2.8 ypc on the game. Beyond one 31 yard run (where the line was Gary-Hurst-Winovich incidentally), it was nada on the ground for Indiana.

              Indiana did effectively run tempo to play the backups more than M wanted a couple times, but that was a very limited issue and the D was very stout.

    • crazyjoedavola
      Comments: 198
      Joined: 8/13/2015
      crazyjoedavola
      Nov 17, 2017 at 8:34 PM

      This Michigan defense is not nearly as stout or deep as last year’s unit, while Wisconsin is better than they were last year and the game is on the road. Don’t be surprised to see a blowout loss similar to what took place in Happy Valley.

      I actually think that the offense will show some signs of life, but I am fully expecting for the defense to get their teeth knocked out in this one.

      • Comments: 538
        Joined: 9/13/2015
        michymich
        Nov 17, 2017 at 11:35 PM

        Keys to the game (In my mind).

        1. Brown has got to adjust early. Play a more base offense. He has to take away the run game and make Wisconsin pass. Go heavy on the DL. Wisconsin is not going to go away from their tendencies.

        2. This is a game where McCray is going to have to excel.

        3. Staff is going to have to play to win. Go for it. TD’s. Not fg’s. Not like Nordin is confident right now.

        4. Risk the turnover. As one person said, take the training wheels off. The defense is going to get worn down over time unless the time of possession is in their favor.

        5. I think UM is going up against a better version of themselves but unlike PSU who can blow people out with their skill guys, Wisconsin will body blow you over the course of the game.

        Take risk. Balanced offense. I would be ecstatic if UM ran for 150 yards but 150 passing yards is going be needed. 300 yards total offense may get the job done. Solomon and Mone are going to be playing mucho.

      • Comments: 538
        Joined: 9/13/2015
        michymich
        Nov 18, 2017 at 11:35 AM

        I don’t see a blowout. It’s not the MO of Wisconsin. They like to wear you down which gets to the keys I talk about below. UM has to keep their defense off the field.

        I would be shocked if they ran for close to 200 yards. Shocked. It would legitimize the running game. They are going to need to pass in order to win. Will the staff take off the training wheels?

        I don’t know. I can almost assure you that UM isn’t going to be running on Wisconsin like it’s either of there previous 3 games. This game too me looks like Iowa last year but tougher. This would be a HUGE win if they can pull it off.

        When you are close to a double digit dawg on the road that tells you everything you need to know. Peters is going to have to make a name for himself today, hopefully a good name.

    • Comments: 538
      Joined: 9/13/2015
      michymich
      Nov 18, 2017 at 6:53 PM

      Wasn’t a far off prediction but do you acknowledge that Wisconsin is as good as their rankings?

  7. Comments: 140
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    coachernie
    Nov 17, 2017 at 7:43 PM

    I saw one Wisconsin site predicting they will lose.
    He admitted they have played absolutely nobody ( the 31 -14 win v FL Atlantic notwithstanding)…and it will catch up to them this weekend.
    Lets be honest here…
    this Badger team would have 2 losses if they had to play PSU, MSU, Mich and OSU.

    Just the facts folks.

    Mich…. 17
    Badger…13

  8. Comments: 169
    Joined: 12/24/2016
    INTJohn
    Nov 17, 2017 at 8:15 PM

    Michigan can win this game if:
    They are at least +2 in turnover margin;
    Make at least one big play on special teams;
    And they can hit 2 deep balls – gota hit a couple deep balls.

    Deeah, Bahdeeah bahdeeah bahdeeah……..thats all folks!
    INTJohn

  9. Comments: 169
    Joined: 12/24/2016
    INTJohn
    Nov 17, 2017 at 8:46 PM

    This stuff that Wisconsin hasn’t played any1 is just bs, too. FWIW dept. They’ve victories over 3 teams with winning records – 2 of those teams; 1 beat MSU; the other destroyed OSU.
    Michigan is the team that has victories over no1 with a winning record and the loss to Sparty was, to me, an unpardonable sin.
    People need to have more respect for proven decent opponents and Wisconsin is that; so is MSU & OSU as well – all 3 of these teams win.
    Meritocracy – earn it Michigan: Saturday is another opportunity to overcome & earn.
    As I See It…………INTJohn

  10. Lanknows
    Comments: 3611
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Nov 18, 2017 at 10:52 AM

    Wisconsin’s weak schedule raises issues not only about legitimacy but preparation. The later is what matters today.

    • Comments: 538
      Joined: 9/13/2015
      michymich
      Nov 18, 2017 at 11:30 AM

      Tell about this tough schedule for UM. Did they win any tough games. This tells me that UM isn’t very good against good teams on the road and Wisconsin is an unknown but beats everybody.

      Wisconsin beat Iowa. Who has UM beaten?

      I’ll be rooting hard for UM but looking at this objectively,

      1. It’s a hostile road environment
      2. Wisconsin wins games
      3. UM loses road games
      4. UM has the new qb.
      5. Wisconsin has the experienced qb.

      Wisconsin 24
      UM 13

      Hope I am wrong. I do believe UM will be competitive unlike PSU.

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