Wisconsin vs. Michigan Football Preview: Can the Wolverines Pull Off the Upset?
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Michigan senior cornerback James Rogers made it pretty clear in Michigan's weekly press conference that the Badgers will not be scoring 83 points on the Wolverine defense this Saturday in Ann Arbor.
The Badgers laid 83 points on Indiana in Madison this past Saturday, making that the second largest point total in Big Ten history, behind Ohio State's 85 against Iowa in 1950.
Michigan will certainly have their hands full in the Big House Saturday, regardless of whether junior running back John Clay is in Wisconsin's lineup or not.
The Badgers feature two other talented backs in freshman sensation James White, who has run for 714 yards and 11 touchdowns, and sophomore Montee Ball, who has rushed for 513 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Badger's running game is so good that it makes senior quarterback Scott Tolzien's job a lot easier with the ability for play action pass. Wisconsin has very talented receivers, which makes Tolzien's job even easier, with Nick Toon, David Gilreath and Isaac Anderson, not to mention Tolzien's favorite target in tight end Lance Kendricks.
The Badgers have a lot of talent offensively that will try to take advantage of a Michigan defense that has yielded its fair share of points this season.
On the other side of the ball, Michigan doesn't exactly have a bad offense itself. Sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson ranks second nationally in rushing yards with 1,417.
Who will win in the Big House on Saturday?
Sophomore wide receiver Roy Roundtree has been on a tear lately just because that is what he does; he did it last year, and he is doing it this year. Roundtree leads the team with 51 receptions for 725 yards and five touchdowns.
Robinson was a sensation to begin the season but has faltered in recent weeks and has been pulled multiple times in favor of backup quarterback Tate Forcier. Michigan has turned the ball over 10 times in the last two games and six of them Robinson has been responsible for.
The Wolverines know they have to take care of the football if they want to have any shot at beating Wisconsin, because you cannot give a stout offense any extra possessions.
It also wouldn't hurt if Michigan running back Vincent Smith could be more consistent running the football. He rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown in last week's win at Purdue.
Michigan will win if:
They don't turn the ball over and continue playing good defense. As previously stated in this article, the Michigan offense has turned the ball over 10 times the last two games.
Wisconsin has too much firepower on offense for Michigan to give them any extra possessions.
The Wolverines must also continue to play sound defense. Michigan seems to have garnered some strong momentum in the huge defensive stand that won them the game against Illinois in triple overtime two weeks ago, as they proceeded to only allow 16 points to Purdue, which didn't include an offensive touchdown—just three field goals and a pick six thrown by Robinson.
Michigan's defense must play assignment football, meaning staying in their gaps and keeping containment; stack the box when/if Clay is in the game and contain when White is in the game.
White burned Michigan State twice on two outside runs in the Badgers' early season loss to the Spartans.
Wisconsin will win if:
They wear out the Michigan defense with their trio of backs and contain Denard Robinson. Although Michigan's defense has shown some signs of improvement, they are still Michigan's defense and still contain many vulnerabilities.
Any time a team has three talented running backs such as Wisconsin does, it is easy to keep good rotation in the backfield without fatigue setting in, and with as good of a run game as Wisconsin has, the pass game also becomes much easier.
The Wolverines have struggled in the run defense department this year, giving up over 182 yards a game to Big Ten opponents.
This means the Badgers are licking their chops.
I am definitely not perceiving this is going to be an easy game for the Wolverines because it is obviously not going to be. Wisconsin has one thing in mind: Run the ball down the throat of Michigan's small defensive front, and then when they are least expecting it, pull the ball up and throw it down the field.
The Badgers also have to play defense and that means stopping No. 16 in Maize and Blue. The thing I have noticed about Denard Robinson is that if you keep contain on him, he will not go very far because he is a north to south runner, not east to west.
Game-planning around Robinson is never an easy thing, but we don't know which Robinson we are going to even see—the Robinson from the first five games or the Robinson from the last two weeks.
Either way, the Badger defense is going to have a struggle because they are facing the nation's second leading rusher.
The Wisconsin Badgers are 6-21-1 all time in the Big House, and I think that trend continues Saturday. With John Clay possibly being out, the Badgers aren't going to have as effective of a running game.
I think Michigan will continue with its defensive momentum and make the stops that it needs.
Denard Robinson is going to have a good game for the first time in weeks and lead Michigan past the Badgers.
Final score: Michigan 31, Wisconsin 24.
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