Preview: Michigan at Wisconsin

Preview: Michigan at Wisconsin

October 1, 2021
Graham Mertz

Michigan is #5 in rushing offense (291 yards/game) and #6 in yards per attempt (6.3) despite having a tough go against Rutgers last week (112 rushing yards, 3.0 yards/carry). Blake Corum is down to 6.9 yards per attempt and Hassan Haskins is down to 5.3. Both of those rushing averages are still very good, but Michigan needs a better game this week. The game was really slowed down in the trenches and by the play calling; starting left guard Trevor Keegan and left tackle Ryan Hayes both struggled in the run game, and Josh Gattis called a very uninspired game filled with repeated inside runs that repeatedly didn’t work. Wisconsin, meanwhile, is the #1 rushing defense (23.0 yards allowed/game) and teams are averaging just 1.01 yards per attempt. Last week Notre Dame managed just 3 total rushing yards on 32 attempts, an absolutely abysmal effort. Senior inside linebacker Jack Sanborn (6’2″, 236 lbs.) leads the squad with 5 tackles for loss, followed by senior defensive end Matt Henningsen (6’3″, 291) with 4 and sophomore outside linebacker Nick Herbig (6’2″, 227) with 3.5. Senior safety Scott Nelson (6’2″, 205) leads the team with 13 tackles. Unless Michigan can open up the running game by throwing the ball effectively (see below), it’s going to be tough sledding.
Advantage: Wisconsin

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Michigan is #116 in passing offense (164 yards/game) and #20 in passing efficiency. Starting quarterback Cade McNamara is completing 62% of his passes for 534 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions on 10.1 yards per attempt. Despite pretty good efficiency overall, he’s not throwing the ball nearly enough to make Michigan fans happy. He also had a pretty rough second half last week (1/5 for 8 yards), missing a few open receivers after taking a targeting penalty from defensive tackle Julius Turner. The leading receiver is Cornelius Johnson (8 catches, 198 yards, 1 touchdown), and nobody else has more than 99 yards on the year. It’s a pretty paltry passing game. Wisconsin is #37 in passing defense (187 yards allowed/game) and #30 in passing efficiency defense. They’re #47 in sacks (10), led by Herbig with 3.5. Senior cornerback Faion Hicks (5’10”, 192) leads the team with 4 pass breakups, and junior cornerback Donte Burton (5’10”, 183) has the lone interception for the Badgers.
Advantage: Wisconsin

Michigan is #57 in rush defense (133 yards allowed/game) and #61 in yards allowed per carry (3.75). Somewhat oddly, they’re tied at #5 with just 1 touchdown allowed on the ground. Linebacker Josh Ross leads the team with 29 tackles, while linebacker Nikhai Hill-Green and safety Daxton Hill are tied for #2 with 18 each. Ross has made 3.5 tackles for loss in the run, which is #1 on the team. The Wolverines have shown that they will fairly consistently allow small chunks of yardage, but what they haven’t done is allowed big plays in the run game. Wisconsin is #33 in rushing (203 yards/game) and #64 in yards per carry (4.33), which is tied with Minnesota. Junior running back Chaz Mellusi (5’11”, 204) is the starting back and has 69 carries for 319 yards (4.6 yards/carry) and 2 touchdowns, which are subpar numbers for a Wisconsin running back. Backup Isaac Guerendo (6’0″, 219) is faring better with 7.3 yards per carry, but those numbers are really inflated by his 4 carries for 92 yards and 1 touchdown against Eastern Michigan. Otherwise, he has 17 carries for 61 yards. Right tackle Logan Bruss (6’5″, 315) is the star run blocker of the squad, but this is not the same massive, road-grading offensive line that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing out of Madison. The Badgers will use a variety of tight ends, fullbacks, and condensed formations to try to disrupt Michigan’s run fits.
Advantage: Wisconsin

Michigan is #24 in pass defense (171.5 yards allowed/game) and #21 in passer rating defense. The secondary has not done much to defend the pass well, and the only organic pass rush has come from one spot: outside linebacker Aidan Hutchinson is tied for #1 in the country with 5.5 sacks. Somewhat amazingly, Michigan is #87 in sacks overall with 7, meaning other players have only generated 1.5 sacks (David Ojabo has 1, and Taylor Upshaw has 0.5). Wisconsin right tackle Bruss (see above) is a good run blocker but a poor pass blocker, which would seem to bode well for Hutchinson, who lines up over the right tackle a majority of the time. Wisconsin is #94 in pass offense (197 yards/game) with a miserable 1-touchdown-to-7-interception ratio. Former Michigan target Graham Mertz (6’3″, 227) has completed just 56.8% of his passes for 6.0 yards per attempt, and he has accounted for 6 of those interceptions. Many of them have been downright ugly, and his confidence has definitely been shaken. Tight end Jake Ferguson (6’5″, 244) is probably the biggest matchup problem, but Wisconsin has struggled to get him the ball as much as they would in most seasons (13 catches, 80 yards). Neither of the Badgers’ starting receivers tops 12.2 yards per catch, either. It’s a team that lacks explosiveness on offense.
Advantage: Michigan


  • Wisconsin players recruited by Michigan: WR Markus Allen, OT Tyler Beach, RB Jalen Berger, OT Logan Brown, OT Logan Bruss, TE Jaylan Franklin, QB Graham Mertz, S Scott Nelson, TE Jack Pugh, OT Nolan Rucci, OT Trey Wedig
  • Wisconsin WR Markus Allen was committed to Michigan at one point and was a high school teammate of Michigan safety Rod Moore
  • Wisconsin players from the State of Michigan include: WR A.J. Abbott (West Bloomfield), WR Stephan Bracey (East Kentwood), OT Logan Brown (East Kentwood), TE Jaylan Franklin (Carlson), OT Michael Furtney (Milan), S Scott Nelson (U of D Jesuit), LB Jordan Turner (Farmington)


  • On November 14, 2020, Wisconsin crushed Michigan in an empty Big House by a score of 49-11
  • Michigan QB Joe Milton completed 9/19 passes for 98 yards and 2 interceptions, including a pick-six
  • Backup QB Cade McNamara came in to complete 4/7 passes for 74 yards and 1 touchdown, a 23-yarder to Mike Sainristil
  • Wisconsin ran 51 times for 341 yards and 5 touchdowns
  • Lots of Michigan fans turned off the TV and/or barfed


  • Wisconsin 17, Michigan 13

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