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This Week at The Wolverine Den
Wisconsin at Michigan
October 1, 2016 - 3:30 p.m. ET
The University of Michigan Wolverines will battle the Wisconsin Badgers Saturday at the Big House. It is a matchup of undefeated, top ten teams. It is also a game that will feature two of the best defenses in the country. Wisconsin ranks #2 in Total Defense in the B1G while Michigan ranks #1. On paper, it looks like quite a battle.
Wisconsin was expected to have a rebuilding year. They were unranked to start the season but beat LSU in their opening game. After beating up a couple of cupcakes, the Badgers traveled to East Lansing last week and dismantled Michigan State. They held the Spartans to 75 yards rushing, made 4 sacks and forced 4 turnovers. Making his first start of his career was R-S Freshman QB Alex Hornibrook. He was not spectacular but got the job done against a good defense (and on the road). The big offensive threat for Wisconsin is RB Corey Clement. He is one of the best in the conference. As always, Wisconsin has a big offensive line that excels at zone blocking. The Badgers lead the conference in time of possession with over 37 minutes per game.
The Wolverine Den Trivia
Part 1: What significance does the number 2445 have?
Part 2: Jim Harbaugh was the first Michigan quarterback to throw for over 300 yards in a single game (310 yards on October 4, 1986 against Wisconsin). Who was the next Michigan QB to throw for over 300 yards in a game?
The Badger defense is led by the linebackers – TJ Watt and Vince Biegel. Watt is the brother of JJ Watt and was the B1G Defensive Player of the Week last week. Biegel leads the team in career sacks and TFLs. The secondary is also excellent as the Badgers are one of only a few teams nationally that hold their opponents under 100 yards rushing and under 200 yards passing per game. Wisconsin has only allowed 3 touchdowns all season.
The key to this game is the start. Wisconsin has jumped on their four opponents this year early and often. They have run 97 plays gaining 537 yards in the 1st quarter, compared to 27 plays and 64 yards for their opponents. The Wolverines will need to start fast. Wisconsin has been resilient. They trailed in the 4th quarter to both LSU and to Georgia St, but came back to win. They have also won 11 of their last 12 road games in the B1G. While all this sounds impressive, a closer look reveals that Wisconsin is at least a year away from playing with the big boys. They squeaked by an LSU team that has looked bad in every game this year and just fired Les Miles this week. They squeaked by a bad Georgia State team that is still winless on the season. They beat a Michigan State team that everyone thought was good because they won at Notre Dame – but Notre Dame is now 1-3 on the season and has the look of a really bad team. Plus, the Spartans gave them the game with all the turnovers.
I don’t see Wisconsin having great success against the Michigan defense. We rank first in the nation in 3rd down defense and 2nd in TFLs. The question is, can the Michigan offense score against a good Wisconsin defense. The Wolverines are averaging 52 points per game – the most ever by a Michigan team after 4 games. I don’t expect us to score 50, but I do see the offense able to move the ball. When the defense and special teams create short fields, it makes it much easier to score.
Michigan leads the all-time series 49-14-1.
The Wolverines are a 10½ point favorite.
Great Moments in Wolverines - Badgers History
- Ron Johnson set the Michigan rushing record with 347 yards in the 1968 game. He also scored all 5 Michigan touchdowns in the game.
- Jim Harbaugh’s best passing game was in the 1986 Wisconsin game – he threw for 310 yards in the 34-17 victory.
- The Michigan offense, led by Tony Boles’ 179 yards rushing, rolled up 628 total yards in the 62-14 win in 1988.