The last road game of the season is here and it’s a big game for both teams. #5 Wisconsin welcomes #24 Michigan to town as Jim Harbaugh and the young Wolverines look to play spoiler and hand the Badgers the first loss of the season and pretty much end its playoff chances. And it should be a good, stereotypical Big Ten game. The weather’s supposed to be cold with a mix of rain and snow, which means these two teams that rely on the run a ton already are likely going to run the rock even more. So, whose defense will come out on top? Who will win the turnover battle?
Check out the four things to watch in the 2017 Wisconsin vs. Michigan game:
1. Offensive Gameplan
With the exact weather you’d expect for a game in Madison in November. So, it’s likely that both teams play like the Big Ten teams they are and keep the ball on the ground and look to grind out a win. But, for Michigan, it may be even more important as Brandon Peters still hasn’t truly been tested. And in a cold, loud atmosphere, like the one expected on Saturday, against the #1 ranked defense in the conference. Getting Karan Higdon, Ty Isaac, Tyrone Wheatley Jr., and Michael Onwenu back will be a big help here.
Though I believe the staff should run and run and run some more, look out for some big play action plays. Like the touchdown pass to Gentry in the Maryland game, when the defense loads the box with 8+, Peters will have to take advantage for Michigan to win.
2. Getting Back to Nearly 100%
Mentioned a bit above, the injured Wolverines will be the most important names to watch in pregame warmups. Lavert Hill is one of the most underrated defensive players in the country but is going through concussion protocol. He’s a player Michigan will need but it looks questionable, at this point.
I already mentioned the other big names to watch on the injured list Higdon, Isaac, Wheatley and Onwenu are all big pieces of the offense and are much needed in this match up. While Higdon is the biggest need for the team, Onwenu will be the most interesting addition back into the offense. If he returns, as expected, he’ll slide back into the right guard position and emerging Cesar Ruiz will be moved. But will he go to the bench or will there be a full shakeup? In his limited playing time, Ruiz has been one of the five best lineman for Michigan. We’ll see if the staff values the top five or the best five together.
3. Winning the Turnover Battle
Unless the offense bursts out of its shell and can put the ball in the endzone, at least three times, the defense will need to turn the ball over and either score or set up the offense with short fields. It’s that simple. And luckily for Michigan’s defense, Alex Hornibrook has thrown the second most interceptions in the Big Ten with 12 (Tanner Lee with 13) and has been picked on before by Don Brown.
Last season, Hornibrook went 9-25 for 88 yards, 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. And, though its a completely different starting secondary, Michigan has the #1 pass defense in the conference. That may end up being the biggest match up in the game, though freshmen running back phenom, Jonathan Taylor, against Mo Hurst, Devin Bush and crew should be fun to watch as well.
4. Big Win on the Road
It’s been well documented that Michigan has been riding the struggle bus in big road games over the last decade. According to MaizenBrew’s Drew Hallett, Michigan has lost its last 15 games against top 25 teams on the road, dating back to my senior year in high school, 2006.
Yeah, not good.
So, this is a big game for more than just the Big Ten race and playoff rankings. This game could help start to get a monkey off the team’s back. But it’ll be a difficult one as the Badgers have a ton of momentum and the Wolverines have yet to put a complete game together against a quality opponent all season.
Will the young guns show up and show out to give Michigan its first notable win of the season or will the big stage be too much and the hate will continue towards Harbaugh and the Wolverines? Let us know in the comment section below!
Photo Credit: Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog