Preview: (5) Wisconsin vs (24) Michigan

THE BASICS

The teams: The No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers (10-0, 7-0) vs the No. 24 Michigan Wolverines (8-2, 5-2)

The time: 11 a.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.

The TV coverage: FOX with Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt in the booth, and Jenny Taft on the sideline.

The last time: Michigan’s defense smothered Wisconsin and the Wolverines did just enough on offense to get a 14-7 win last October.

The series: Michigan leads 50-14-2

The line: Wisconsin -7

The Badgers injury report:

QUESTIONABLE

S D’Cota Dixon (leg)
C Tyler Biadasz (leg)

OUT

Game:

TE Luke Benzschawel (leg)
LB Chris Orr (leg)

Season:

WR Quintez Cephus (leg)
S Patrick Johnson (arm)
RB Taiwan Deal (leg)
LB Jack Cichy (knee)
LB Zack Baun (foot)
RB Sam Brodner (knee)
LB Mason Stokke (leg)

THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1) Keeping that dream alive

Wisconsin has already made history with its first ever 10-0 start, but the Badgers have much bigger goals in their sights. And the only way to achieve those is to find a way to beat Michigan. A win would give them another marquee victory to add to their College Football Playoff resume and legitimize them in the eyes of those that believe their success to this point is simply a result of a less than impressive schedule.

2) Taking care of the rock

Turnovers and winning are rare bedfellows, but they have been for Wisconsin this year. Only Illinois has coughed up the ball more in the Big Ten than the Badgers, and yet they’ve found ways to overcome, largely because of a defense that has been remarkable in “sudden” change situations. But it’s not a sustainable formula, meaning quarterback Alex Hornibrook (12 interceptions) and running back Jonathan Taylor (four lost fumbles) need to be more vigilant with the ball if Wisconsin is to stay perfect.

3) Force him to beat you

Michigan has caught fire since getting whipped by Penn State last month, winning its last three games by an average of 23 points. Much of that success was the result of a strong running game that put up more than 300 yards again Rutgers and Minnesota. That’s allowed quarterback Brandon Peters to be a game manager instead of having to win games with his arm. But Wisconsin stops the run better than any team in the country, and defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard said this week they have to make Michigan one-dimensional and see if the redshirt freshman making his third career start can beat them.

4) We meet again

Wisconsin’s offensive line got whipped the last time these two teams saw each other in October 2016. The Wolverines limited the Badgers to just 2.5 yards per carry and harassed Hornibrook into three interceptions. More than a year later, that Michigan defensive line is still just as a good, but it will see an offensive line that has grown immensely since then. Wisconsin has the second-best rushing attack in the Big Ten and topped 200 yards in every game but two this season. If the Badgers offense is to have success, they’ll need to neutralize Michigan’s talented front.

5) The atmosphere

When Camp Randall Stadium is full and rocking, it can be as tough a place as any in the country for the visiting team. That’s unlikely to be the case on Saturday, at least initially. The normally late arriving student section, combined with an 11 a.m. start and ESPN’s College GameDay broadcasting from the other side of campus, will surely lead to plenty of empty seats to start the game. The crowd should be a huge advantage for Wisconsin, but it may not be that way until sometime later in the first half.

NUMBERS TO CONSIDER

Wisconsin will honor 13 seniors who will be playing their final games at Camp Randall Stadium. The class is already the winningest in school history with 42 victories.

Alex Hornibrook’s passing efficiency mark of 155.6 is the best by a Wisconsin quarterback since Russell Wilson in 2011.

Wisconsin’s defense is allowing just 247.6 yards per game, tops in the country and the best mark since Alabama gave up an average of 183.6 yards during the 2011 season.

PREDICTIONS

Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Wisconsin 21, Michigan 17 (10-0 on the season, 7-3 against the spread)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 24, Michigan 17 (10-0 on the season, 6-4 against the spread)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 21, Michigan 9 (10-0 on the season, 6-4 against the spread)

No. 5 Wisconsin vs No. 24 Michigan preview

MADISON — Every week for Wisconsin the games begin getting bigger. Last week, they faced a ranked team for the first time all season. The result was a 38-14 throttling of the visiting No. 20 Iowa Hawkeyes.

That win vaulted the Badgers up three spots to No. 5 in the most recent College Football Playoff Rankings. Iowa was knocked out of the rankings after their loss, but that opened up the door for this week’s opponent, Michigan, to come in at No. 24.

Wisconsin enters the matchup with a 10-0 (7-0 Big Ten) record, their best start to a season in program history. Michigan comes in at 8-2 (5-2) with losses to Michigan State and Penn State this season.

Battle of strengths:
Both of these teams do the same things well. Wisconsin and Michigan follow the same winning formula. Play outstanding defense and run the ball effectively.

The Badgers and Wolverines both are in the top four in fewest yards allowed per play in the country. Wisconsin is second at 4.1 yards per play, and Michigan is fourth at 4.3 yards per play. Both teams also follow the old-school Big Ten saying of ‘three yards and a cloud of dust’ when it comes to the opponents rushing attack. Wisconsin allows 2.8 yards per carry, good enough for fourth in the country. Michigan is 14th in that category, allowing 3.3 yards per carry.

On the opposite side of the ball, both squads average over 200 yards per game on the ground. Wisconsin is led by freshman running back Jonathan Taylor who has had five games of over 150 yards this season.

Michigan has employed a couple of different running backs at times this season. Karan Higdon, Chris Evans, and Ty Isaac are all over the 500-yard mark for the year. Isaac has missed the past two games for Michigan and is listed as questionable for the matchup with the Badgers. That trio all averages 5.5 yards per carry or better. Higdon has been the most productive of the three, with 854 yards and 10 touchdowns on 129 carries. Higdon and Evans recently were named Big Ten Co-Offensive Players of the Week for the team’s week 10 win over Minnesota where the two combined for 391 rushing yards and four scores on 29 carries.

For Wisconsin, they’ve leaned on Taylor’s production all season long. He currently leads the Big Ten in rushing with 1,525 yards and 12 touchdowns.

How the game will be won:
While the teams have very similar formulas, each has done something better than the other. As of late the biggest difference has been that Michigan has taken care of the ball better than the Badgers have. Sophomore quarterback Brandon Peters has started each of the last three games for Michigan. He hasn’t been tasked with leading his team to victory through the air, but rather been asked to not make mistakes and complete play action passes when called upon. He has thrown for only 325 yards in his three starts on 27-of-45 passing, but he’s yet to throw an interception while tossing five touchdowns.

Wisconsin’s biggest issue as a team has been taking care of the football. Last week against Iowa they were able to overcome four turnovers thanks to an excellent defensive performance. Teams cannot consistently hand over the football and expect to win the way Wisconsin did last week. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook has thrown at least one interception in each of Wisconsin’s seven Big Ten games this season. If there was ever a week where the Badgers would like him to be better about taking care of the ball, it’s this one.

Weather:
Kickoff at Camp Randall is predicted to be 38 degrees with a 45% chance of precipitation. The temperature is supposed to remain the same all afternoon long, however the chance of precipitation decreases as the day goes on.

How to watch:
The game will be televised nationally on FOX. Kickoff is at 11am and coverage begins at 10:30am. Gus Johnson (play-by-play), Joel Klatt (color), and Jenny Taft (sideline) are on the call.

Prediction:
This game looks like an old-fashioned Big Ten football game that warms the hearts of the old-school fan. Strong defense and running game keeps the game under four hours and Wisconsin continues their perfect season with a 17-14 win after trailing in the fourth quarter for the first time this season.

Jonathan Taylor wins sixth Big Ten Freshman of the Week

MADISON — Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor has been honored as the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Week for the sixth time this season. Taylor ran for 157 yards on 29 carries against Iowa in Wisconsin’s 38-14 win in week 11. He also added in one catch for 14 yards.

Taylor has now topped the 100-yard mark in seven of his 10 career games at Wisconsin. The three games in which he failed to do so came against Utah State when he had 87 yards on nine carries, against Northwestern, and at Illinois when he missed the second half due to an ankle injury.

In those five of his seven games of over 100 yards he’s also surpassed the 150-yard mark.

Taylor is among the country’s best in numerous rushing stats. He currently sits at 1,525 yards on the season on 219 carries. Both of those marks are among the top 10 in the country and lead the Big Ten. Taylor trails only Stanford’s Bryce Love and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny in rushing yards nationally.

On Saturday Taylor became the 10th running back in Wisconsin history to surpass 1,500 yards in a single season.

Wisconsin’s victory over Iowa moved them to 10-0 for the first time in program history. The Badgers also clinched at least a share of the Big Ten West with the win, guaranteeing themselves an appearance in the Big Ten Championship.

Winning the award six times ties Taylor for second-most in Big Ten history with Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase in 2010. Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett holds the record for most Freshman of the Week honors with seven in the 2014 season. With two games remaining, Taylor will have the opportunity to tie or pass him.

Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor takes home fifth Freshman of the Week honor

MADISON — University of Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor has been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for week 10 of the season. Taylor helped the Badgers to a 45-17 victory on the road against the Indiana Hoosiers with 29 carries for 183 yards and a touchdown.

This is the fifth time that Taylor has taken home the award on the season, and the fourth time in the last five weeks. His 183 yards against Indiana gave him his sixth game this season where he has topped the 100-yard mark. Taylor is the Big Ten leader in both rushing yards and touchdowns.

Taylor is now tied for the third-most Big Ten Freshman of the Week in the history of the award. Former Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg won the award five times in 2013. Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett holds the record for most times honored as the Big Ten Freshman of the Week. He was honored seven times in 2014.

Wisconsin is unbeaten through nine games for the first time since the 2004 season. They have also won all six of their Big Ten games. They entered the game with Indiana ranked ninth in the country according to the College Football Playoff Top 25.

Preview: (9) Wisconsin at Indiana

THE BASICS

The teams: The No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers (8-0, 5-0) vs the Indiana Hoosiers (3-5, 0-5)

The time: 11 a.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.

The TV coverage: ABC with Dave Pasch and Greg McElroy in the booth, and Tom Luginbill on the sideline.

The last time: Wisconsin ran for 554 yards, including 205 from James White, in a 51-3 win in 2013.

The series: Wisconsin leads 40-18-2

The line: Wisconsin -13.5

The Badgers injury report:

QUESTIONABLE

WR Quintez Cephus (head)
CB Madison Cone (leg)
S D’Cota Dixon (leg)
RB Chris James (leg)
RB Jonathan Taylor (leg)

OUT

Game:

TE Luke Benzschawel (leg)
DE Isaiahh Loudermilk (leg)
WR Jazz Peavy (leg)
FB Austin Ramesh (head)
WR George Rushing (leg)

Season:

S Patrick Johnson (arm)
RB Taiwan Deal (leg)
LB Jack Cichy (knee)
LB Zack Baun (foot)
RB Sam Brodner (knee)
LB Mason Stokke (leg)

THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1) Make a statement

No one expected Wisconsin to be among the top four teams in the first College Football Playoff rankings, but it was still surprising to see one of the four remaining unbeaten Power 5 teams at No. 9. Obviously, a lot of that has to do with a lackluster schedule and there is nothing Wisconsin can do about it. What the Badgers do have control over, though, is how they play against the lesser teams on their schedule. And unlike No. 2 Alabama, whose schedule is just as bad as Wisconsin’s, they haven’t dominated that opposition. That needs to change starting Saturday so the Badgers can, at the very least, start passing the eye test for the selection committee.

2) Injuries pile up

At a time Wisconsin was hoping to be hitting its stride entering the final month of the season, the Badgers are instead trying to navigate through several key injuries. The headliner is running back Jonathan Taylor, who is battling an ankle injury that cut his day short against Illinois last week after 12 carries. He practiced some this week, but he remains questionable. Same goes for wide receiver Quintez Cephus, who was in a no-contact jersey as late as Wednesday with a head injury. Those two guys have accounted for half of the 32 touchdowns the Badgers have scored on offense this year. Missing one or both against Indiana would be less than ideal to say the least.

3) Speed it up

It feels like Wisconsin has faced up-tempo offenses nearly every week this season, but Indiana will be the fastest the Badgers have seen. The Hoosiers average 81.4 plays per game, the No. 6 mark in the country. All those plays are designed to not only stress a defense physically, but also mentally. The key will be communication, so getting safety D’Cota Dixon (leg) back in the lineup would be a nice boost.

4) Is this who Alex Hornibrook is?

When Wisconsin began Big Ten play in late September, it did so with a quarterback in Alex Hornibrook that had thrown eight touchdowns and just one interception during non-conference action. Now five games into the conference season, the sophomore has thrown just five touchdowns while tossing seven interceptions, including at least one in each conference game. His propensity to turn the ball over is the biggest concern facing the team. Is this who he is? Or is it something he can get figured out in the final quarter of the regular season?

5) Road success

Under Paul Chryst, the Badgers have excelled in true road games. Wisconsin is 11-1 since he arrived in 2015 with the lone loss coming last year at Michigan. Indiana presents a different kind of challenge, one the Badgers saw last week at Illinois — a lack of environment. As opposed to playing in front of 78,000 at Camp Randall Stadium, the much-less-than-capacity crowd expected at Memorial Stadium means the Badgers have to bring their own energy and not fall into the trap that catches so many teams in stale environments. They overcame it last week and will need to again.

NUMBERS TO CONSIDER

Wisconsin has won its last nine games against Indiana by an average of 36.8 points per game — the largest margin between Power 5 teams since 2005.

The Badgers have had eight different players run for at least 100 yards against Indiana over the last night games: Brian Calhoun, P.J. Hill, David Gilreath, John Clay, Montee Ball, James White, Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement

Wisconsin cornerback Nick Nelson has 14 pass break-ups so far this season, tied for the second-most in the country. The junior is still looking for his first interception.

PREDICTIONS

Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Wisconsin 24, Indiana 13 (8-0 on the season, 5-3 against the spread)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 28, Indiana 10 (8-0 on the season, 4-4 against the spread)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 31, Indiana 7 (8-0 on the season, 4-4 against the spread)

Jonathan Taylor’s unexpected freshman breakout

MADISON, Wis. — When running back Jonathan Taylor arrived on the University of Wisconsin campus this summer, he didn’t expect to be this successful this soon. No one expected him to ascend as quickly as he has. When Taylor came to Madison, he wasn’t supposed to be one of the best freshman in the entire country.

Seven games into the season, he’s just that.

Taylor has started to do things that aren’t supposed to be done by freshmen, and that’s caused him to garner attention that most first-year players don’t get. This past week Taylor was named second-team midseason All-American by the Associated Press, the best freshman in the country by the same outlet, and placed fifth in this week’s Heisman Trophy rankings from Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman.

This wasn’t expected by fans, media, or even Taylor himself.

“I just wanted to get on the field. You love the game, so you want to play as much as possible. I just wanted to get on the field.” Taylor said.

Taylor has earned all of the accolades given to him, and he still might not be talked about enough. He’s been one of, if not the most impressive parts of a team that is 7-0 and ranked fifth as November approaches.

The Badgers have leaned on the young Salem, N.J. native much like they leaned on another young back from the Garden State a little more than 20 years ago. Ron Dayne starred for Wisconsin from 1996-1999, winning the Heisman Trophy in his final season in Madison. While he won the honor as a senior, the argument could be had that his most productive season was his first on campus. Dayne finished that year with 2,109 yards and 21 touchdowns on 325 carries, good for 6.5 yards per carry.

The two have more in common than just playing running back for the Badgers, with both coming from similar parts of New Jersey.

“I actually met Ron [Dayne] on my official visit.” Taylor said. “That was the first time I met him. He was just asking me about how my recruiting process was going and he started asking me how it was in Jersey. It wasn’t really about football, he was just asking me how I was doing. The only question about football that he asked me was how my [recruiting] process was going.”

During the first quarter of Wisconsin’s Week 8 matchup against Maryland, Taylor tied an NCAA record for fewest games needed to reach the 1000-yard mark as a freshman. He tied legendary names such as Emmitt Smith (Florida), Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma), Marshall Faulk (San Diego State), and Wisconsin’s own P.J. Hill, who did it most recently in 2006.

Most notably of those names, Taylor was most excited to join Peterson on that list.

“Running backs I really watched growing up were Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster. I really liked those two guys. Peterson was just a monster.” Taylor said the week before he tied the former Sooners’ record.

Taylor has done things freshmen very rarely do. He’s been one of the best first-year backs the Big Ten has seen in the last decade, if not longer. By talking to him, one wouldn’t know. Taylor isn’t one to talk about his accomplishments, and routinely raves how great his offensive line is whenever he’s asked about his success.

He’s not lying. His offensive line has been great so far this year, but that’s not the only reason for the success of this back. His maturity helps his cause. That’s always one of the first things that his teammates and coaches bring up when Taylor’s name is mentioned.

“There’s a bunch of things that are impressive,” quarterback Alex Hornibrook said. “Obviously, how he plays on the field. But I think, for me, just seeing him the way he holds himself, in the huddle, on the sidelines, before games, he’s just calm and confident.”

Those aren’t words that are used to describe most teenagers that perform in front of nearly 80,000 screaming fans on Saturday afternoons. Then again, Taylor isn’t like most teenagers. Obviously, there are some similarities to a normal high school graduate who moves away to college. Taylor’s life has changed more than the average student. It’s an adjustment for anyone to go from a small high school of roughly 300 students to one of the country’s largest universities. Pair that with being a star on campus, and it can be a lot to handle. Taylor, though, takes everything in stride.

“Living in Madison, it’s always busy,” Taylor said. “In my city [back home] it’s very small. Living in a town like this, there’s always something to do. It’s very busy. Some nice spots here, like the Memorial [Union], we don’t have anything like that where [I’m from]. I love going out there and just sitting [by] the lake.”

People take notice of who the running back is around campus, but Taylor doesn’t see that as a big deal.

“Now, people come up and say nice game and ask to take a picture or something like that,” he said.

He’s adjusted well to the fame and success. That’s been the ideal scenario for both himself and the Badgers. The way he and the Badgers are seeing results on the field, the level of fame and success is only going to rise from here.

Jonathan Taylor wins fourth Big Ten Freshman of the Week award

MADISON | For the third week in a row, and fourth time this season, Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor has been honored as the Big Ten Freshman of the Week.

Taylor rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries in Wisconsin’s 38-13 win over Maryland in week eight. This game marked the fifth time Taylor has topped the 100-yard mark on the season.

Taylor also reached the 1000-yard plateau during the first quarter of Saturday’s win. By doing so he tied the FBS record for fewest games needed to hit 1000 yards as a freshman. He now shares that record with Emmitt Smith (University of Florida, 1987), Marshall Faulk (San Diego State University, 1991), Adrian Peterson (University of Oklahoma, 2004), Jamario Thomas (North Texas, 2004) and former Badger P.J. Hill (2006).

Through seven games Taylor has accumulated 1112 yards on 149 carries and 11 touchdowns.

Wisconsin moved to 7-0 with the win over Maryland. They’re in action next on Saturday in Champaign, IL, to take on the University of Illinois. Kick off is set for 11AM.

Wisconsin puts two on midseason AP All-American teams

MADISON — 18 months ago David Edwards was a former high school quarterback playing tight end for Wisconsin. On Tuesday, the Associated Press named him a midseason first-team All-American at right tackle for the Badgers.

The sophomore was one of four Big Ten players to make the list and the only one from Wisconsin. Edwards has started the last 13 games for the Badgers, taking over midway through 2016. With his help, the Wisconsin running game is tops in the Big Ten and ranked 13th in the country at 263.8 yards per game.

Earning second-team All-American recognition was running back Jonathan Taylor. The true freshman is third in the country in rushing at 164.3 yards per game, and he’s gone over 200 yards three times in the first six games.

Edwards and Taylor will try to help the fifth-ranked Badgers move to 7-0 for the first time since 2004 when they take on Maryland this Saturday.

Click here for the full AP team.

Pair of Badgers take home Big Ten honors

MADISON, WI | Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor and linebacker Leon Jacobs each took home Big Ten honors for their performances against Purdue in week seven. Taylor took home the Big Ten Freshman of the Week while Jacobs was the recipient of Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.

Against Purdue Taylor ran for 219 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 30 carries this week in Wisconsin’s 17-9 win over Purdue. He also made his first career reception, a 17-yard grab on a screen pass in the first quarter.

The performance against Purdue marked the third time that Taylor has eclipsed the 200-yard mark this season. He currently sits at 986 yards rushing on the year, just 14 shy of the 1000-yard mark. He is the sixth freshman since 2000 to have three or more games of 200-plus rushing yards in a season. Taylor becomes the first to accomplish this since Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine in 2014, and the first Big Ten freshman to do so since Northwestern’s Tyrell Sutton in 2005.

In his three career Big Ten games, Taylor is averaging 183 yards per contest. For the season, he’s averaging 164.3 yards per game, and has scored 10 touchdowns.

Taylor has taken home Freshman of the Week three times, to go along with two Offensive Player of the Week awards on the season.

Jacobs lead the team defensively with a season-high nine tackles on the day. He also had an interception in the fourth quarter, which ultimately ended Purdue’s last offensive possession at Wisconsin’s 11-yard-line. That was the second career interception for the San Pedro, CA native. Following his interception the Badgers were able to control the ball for the final 8:14 of the game against Purdue.

This is the first career Defensive Player of the Week honor for Jacobs. He becomes Wisconsin’s second Defensive Player of the Week in 2017, joining safety Natrell Jamerson, who won the award following Wisconsin’s win over Northwestern earlier this season.

Fifth-ranked Wisconsin is back in action Saturday at home against Maryland.

Jonathan Taylor Takes Home Big Ten Honor

For the second week in a row, the Wisconsin Badgers have a player honored as one of the Big Ten’s finest. This week, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week has been awarded to freshman running back Jonathan Taylor for his performance against Nebraska in week six. Last week, Natrell Jamerson took home the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week award.

Taylor rushed for a career-high 249 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries en route to a Wisconsin 38-17 win in Lincoln.

One of the game’s biggest moments came shortly after Nebraka’s Stanley Morgan, Jr. scored on an 80-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Tanner Lee. After the ensuing kick off was a touchback, the Badgers lined up at their own 25-yard-line. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook took a shot gun snap and handed the ball off to Taylor who then raced around the right side all the way into the end zone for a 75-yard score to give the Badgers a 17-7 lead.

Taylor’s effort Saturday night made him the second true freshman in Wisconsin history to total over 200 yards on the ground in multiple games, joining Ron Dayne who did it in 1996.

This is the second time this season Taylor has been awarded both honors, the first was week two against Florida Atlantic University where he totaled 223 yards on 26 carries, reaching the end zone a career-high three times.

This is the third Offensive Player of the Week honor for Wisconsin this year, quarterback Alex Hornibrook took home the award for his performance in week three against BYU.