Wisconsin Opponent Preview: No.12 Michigan

Wisconsin Opponent Preview: No.12 Michigan

Football

Wisconsin Opponent Preview: No.12 Michigan

Freedom Trophy is here to stay but now it is on to Michigan, a talented team ranked 12th in the country that brings new challenges for Wisconsin. The Badgers – coming off a strong home win over Nebraska – will have to be on point in order to keep this game from getting away from them and into the hands of the Wolverines, which is coming off its own dominating home victory over Maryland.

Wisconsin won last year’s meeting in the regular season home finale, but the Badgers lost a tight game at Michigan Stadium two years ago, a 14-7 outcome where the main factor for both teams was a strong defense. With both teams not willing to give anything up to the other, the outcome came down to Michigan picking off freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook three times and Wisconsin only snagging one turnover. The loss didn’t deter UW from having a successful season and UW’s players certainly aren’t afraid of Michigan’s talent.

The Wolverines are a well-coached program under Jim Harbaugh, who has done a good job of taking the program out of the Big Ten East cellar and into a weekly contender. Not everything is perfect, however. Offensively there has been a struggle of consistency, as slow starts have allowed teams to hang with the Wolverines for much of the game. That leads to the big question with Michigan: will they come out strong or will they take a punch in the face before they decide to play?

Michigan’s offense is well balanced, averaging 199.8 yards on the ground and 220.8 yards in the air. Harbaugh’s big shiny new toy is junior Ole Miss transfer quarterback Shea Patterson, who threw for 282 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on 19 of 27 passing against the Terrapins. His star target is senior wide receiver Zach Gentry, a converted tight end (he came to Michigan as a quarterback) who leads the team in both catches (20) and receiving yards (306). There were other targets that Patterson had against Maryland, as he completed throws to nine different targets (wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones does have five touchdown catches on the year), but Gentry caught seven of the passes for 112 yards.

The Badgers would be well suited to put a big target on Gentry’s back to make sure he isn’t seen as an option in the passing game. But what damage can’t be done in the air can be done in the run game. Though senior running back Karan Higdon has 582 yards rushing compared to sophomore running back Jonathon Taylor’s 849 yards rushing of the season, Higdon did come off of a big 103-yard performance last game and averages 116.4 rushing yards per game.

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