Wisconsin vs Michigan Preview

The undefeated Wolverines travel to Camp Randall to take on the Badgers in a pivotal early-season Wisconsin vs Michigan Big Ten clash.

Wisconsin vs Michigan Game Preview

What: #14 Michigan at Wisconsin

When: Saturday, October 2nd, 11am CT

Network: FOX

This upcoming Saturday features two teams desperate to shake the narrative of the current outlooks on their programs. #14 Michigan rides into Camp Randall 4-0, looking to put the Wolverines officially into the Big Ten, and national discussion as a major player this season. Wisconsin comes in licking their wounds after yet another dismal performance offensively, with serious question marks on the tails of coach Paul Chryst and quarterback Graham Mertz. The winner Saturday can, for the time being, put off the critics and kick start a run in conference play. So, let’s look at Wisconsin vs Michigan.

How They Got Here

Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines come into this matchup looking to make a statement. All offseason, the narrative has been that this team will be mediocre to average at best, and could possibly be Harbaugh’s most disappointing team yet. Well, someone forgot to tell his players that. Michigan started off the season with statement victories including a 31-10 drubbing of a pre-season ranked Washington. Their identity is clear, run the ball, and don’t make mistakes in the air. They’ve done just that with a dynamic duo at tailback in Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins. Couple that with a stingy, but relatively untested Michigan defense, and the Wolverines enter Madison unblemished and highly ranked.

Wisconsin comes into this pivotal clash at a breaking point. Throughout the offseason, the talk was that this is the year for the aforementioned Mertz to take off. His third year in the program has yielded the worst results yet. A vaunted Badger front seven has been wasted by the worst offense in Coach Chryst’s offense. They aren’t the sole two to blame, but the national focus will be on just them. Adding to their struggles, the offensive line has been a shell of its former self, getting outmatched by both Penn State and Notre Dame badly. However, this game presents a real opportunity for this team to turn the tide, make a statement victory, and put to rest critics that are reaching a near boiling point.

What To Watch For

Michigan

Michigan has, for the most part, executed its game plans flawlessly. Outside of the second half vs Rutgers last week, the M-O of this offense has been to feed the talented duo of Corum and Haskins, and not put quarterback Cade McNamara in any situations that may force him to make a difficult decision with the ball. And it has worked. They have yet to turn the ball over in four games, have rushed for on average nearly 300 yards per game. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, if you’re averaging that kind of number on the ground you are in effect controlling the game.

Defensively, they’re led by standout defensive lineman Aiden Hutchinson. The senior and future NFL Draft pick already has four-and-a-half sacks and will look to take advantage of a struggling offensive line unit and make a living in the backfield. With that being said, the Wisconsin offense’s Achilles heel has been turnovers. Michigan has forced just three turnovers on the season, they’ll try to change that Saturday.

Wisconsin

The Badgers come into this game with maybe more pressure than they ever faced from their fan base. Paul Chryst hasn’t faced this much scrutiny in his tenure and will need to have his guys ready to go. Offensively, it is imperative for them to get control early. Keeping the Michigan rushing attack off the field, and your defense rested will go a long way in what will likely be a tight game. This means getting creative with your play calling, opening up the playbook, getting multiple players involved. Whether it be Chez Mellusi, or Danny Davis III, and Kendric Pryor on jet sweeps, something has got to give with this offense.

Most importantly, Mertz needs to take care of the ball. The fourth quarter of last week vs Notre Dame was some of the worst quarterback play Badger fans have seen in a long time. He has the talent, but right now, certainly not the confidence. Look for Chryst to try and alleviate the pressure by involving some of the playmakers into the game plan early.

Defensively, what else can you say? Jim Leonhard’s unit has been virtually excellent, without the game results to show it. A front seven led by Nick Herbig has dominated, consistently wreaking havoc in opposing backfields. Moreover, this will be vital for success against a run-first Michigan offense. Containing this Michigan rushing attack won’t be easy, but it will be necessary to load the box. Essentially, make McNamara beat you. The young quarterback has managed games well but has yet to prove he can win a game with his arm. Leonhard will look to make him find out Saturday afternoon.

Concluding Remarks

Both teams have something to prove this Saturday, but with a very different context. Michigan wants to announce it’s officially back from a down year. Winning in Camp Randall, as an underdog, does just that, albeit vs a seemingly down Badger team.

Wisconsin is looking to disprove just that. A loss here would likely bring a third middling season in four years. By Wisconsin standards, that is simply unacceptable. This game is a prove-it game, not just for the players, but their head coach too.

Prediction

In what’s going to be a theme this year featuring Wisconsin, a low-scoring affair. Michigan has all the momentum, while Wisconsin is in a full-on retreat. Wisconsin vs Michigan will likely be a rock fight, but one team has yet to turn the ball over, and that may be the reason they win the game. Until Mertz proves he can take care of the ball vs good teams, odds are we’ll see the same dreadful Wisconsin offense.

Score Prediction: Michigan 17 Wisconsin 1o

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