Preview: Michigan vs. Wisconsin

Preview: Michigan vs. Wisconsin

November 20, 2010
Running back James White

Rush Offense vs. Wisconsin Rush Defense
Wisconsin has the #25 rushing defense in the country, giving up only 3.8 yards per carry and 125 yards per game.  Meanwhile, Michigan is the #9 rushing offense, averaging 5.7 yards per carry and 266 yards per game.  One way or the other, one of these units is going to be disappointed on Sunday.  Michigan’s running game hasn’t been shut down yet this year.  When teams have limited Denard Robinson’s running, the tailbacks have picked up the slack.  And when teams take away the tailbacks, Robinson seems to run free.  I will be interested to see what the Badgers do on Saturday.  It looks to me like Robinson has started to wear down from various nagging injuries.  I wonder if Wisconsin might take the chance of crashing down on the running backs, playing some Cover 0, and daring Robinson to beat them.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. Wisconsin Pass Defense
Wisconsin is #28 in pass defense, but a mediocre #51 in pass efficiency defense.  On the other side, Denard Robinson is the #14 passer in the country . . . with very little dropoff to backup Tate Forcier, since the team is still #14 overall in efficiency.  If all things are working well for Robinson, he should have a good day and make some good plays through the air.  Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, Robinson’s play has deteriorated somewhat in the Big Ten; in the last five games, Robinson’s 7 touchdowns and 8 interceptions have looked less than stellar.  Over that five-game stretch, Robinson’s PER is 138.37 and that would rank him at #36 in the country.  He’s not stinking the joint up, but he’s not lighting the world on fire, either.  That stretch of mediocre play might continue with left tackle Taylor Lewan’s availability in question due to a concussion and right tackle Perry Dorrestein’s nagging knee injury.  Michigan isn’t far from playing backup Mark Huyge at left tackle and untested redshirt freshman Michael Schofield at right tackle.  That could be troublesome for Michigan’s quarterback.  Luckily, Michigan’s receivers – Junior Hemingway and Roy Roundtree, in particular – are playing great football and should be able to take advantage of mismatches against a pedestrian secondary.
Advantage: Michigan

Rush Defense vs. Wisconsin Rush Offense
This is where it really looks ugly for Michigan, and this is nothing new.  Michigan’s coaches have made some positive moves in recent weeks, putting Cameron Gordon at outside linebacker instead of free safety, Craig Roh (finally!) at defensive end instead of linebacker, and Obi Ezeh (finally!) at outside linebacker rather than in the middle.  If banged-up starters Jonas Mouton and Mike Martin can play at a high level, those are steps in the right direction.  But Wisconsin is one of the top rushing units in the country, ranking #12 overall.  The good news is that starting Panzer VIII Maus running back John Clay will miss the game due to injury.  The bad news is that top backup James White averages more yards per carry (6.8) than Clay (5.4); even third-string Montee Ball averages 5.6 yards per carry.  Does that mean Wisconsin’s running backs are great?  Absolutely not.  It means that Wisconsin’s offensive linemen are all named Vinnie Jones and make a habit of saying “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”  They are big and mean and really, really hate Ellen Page.
Advantage: Wisconsin

Pass Defense vs. Wisconsin Pass Offense
One place that Michigan seems to be making some strides is in pass defense.  Cornerback Courtney Avery might be a downgrade from J.T. Floyd in terms of experience, but I’m convinced that Avery will be a better defensive back than Floyd in the long run.  Avery is a quick learner and possesses better agility and hips than Floyd has ever shown.  Meanwhile, the linebackers replacing Craig Roh at SAM (J.B. Fitzgerald, Obi Ezeh) aren’t fluid in space, but they’re better off covering curl zones than a 6’5″, 250 lb. defensive end.  Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien has the #8 PER in the country and averages 8.85 yards per attempt, though.  The combination of Wisconsin’s offensive line, running backs, and Tolzien leaves chances for big plays at any time.  Despite an effective pass offense, I think big plays through the air will be limited by improving play and confidence in the secondary.  Even so, Wisconsin should be able to pick up yards in chunks.
Advantage: Wisconsin

Final Predictions

  • Denard Robinson breaks 100 yards rushing for the eighth time this year
  • James Rogers proves prophetic and Wisconsin fails to score 83 points
  • James White averages fewer than 6.8 yards per carry
  • Michigan’s defense stops the big play but dies a slow death
  • Wisconsin 35, Michigan 27


  1. Comments: 21388
    Nov 20, 2010 at 5:26 AM

    In September you said "Let's see less of this guy on defense . . . Craig Roh at defensive end." Arguing that against Notre Dame, "Roh was overpowered repeatedly" and concluding that "in a 3-3-5 defense, he lacked the strength to stand up to the two blockers that usually stood in his way."

    Given that we're still (mostly) a 3-3-5 defense, what changed your mind? I'm still worried about Roh holding up against Wisconsin's rushing attack. I even though they might play more 4-3, move Roh outside, and give more time to Sagesee, Patterson, Washington, or Banks.

  2. Comments: 21388
    Nov 20, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    @ Lankownia 12:26 a.m.

    First of all, before the season started, I thought Michigan would be less of a 3-3-5 team and more of a 3-4 or 4-2-5 scheme. So in those cases, I thought Roh would be a rush linebacker or a defensive end, respectively.

    However, he's REALLY not cut out to play LB in a 3-3-5. Teams just take advantage of him in space too much. I don't think he's a good 3-3-5 defensive end, but he's a worse linebacker. So it's the lesser of two evils.

    Last year Michigan ran something like a 4-4 against Wisconsin. I'm wondering if we might see a similar scheme tweak this year. I don't think we're going to see a ton of Stack today, but obviously, I could be wrong.

  3. Comments: 21388
    Nov 22, 2010 at 11:05 PM

    Looking ahead to 2011, do you think that Roh can add enough bulk to be a suitable DE in a 3-man front? It seems like he may have to stay in that role because the depth on DL (barring a ready-to-contribute recruit) is very thin. I don't think they have the bodies to play 2 DT unless RVB is moved inside and at least 2 out of Ash, Talbott & Washington are ready to play big roles.

  4. Comments: 21388
    Nov 23, 2010 at 12:12 AM

    @ Lankownia

    Can he? Sure. He added 15-20 pounds this past offseason. It wouldn't be impossible for him to do so again. But I don't think that's the best way to utilize him. And besides that, I think Greg Robinson will be gone after the season and who knows what type of defense we'll run next year….

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