What the future holds: Running back

With the 2017 season in the books, it’s time to look ahead to 2018 for Wisconsin. Over the next few days we’ll be going position-by-position to see what the future holds for the Badgers.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll refer to the players’ class in terms of what they’ll be in 2018. If someone was a sophomore in 2017, they will be called a junior here.

Running back:

Returning: Jonathan Taylor (SO), Chris James (SR), Bradrick Shaw (JR), Garrett Groshek (RS SO), Alec Ingold (SR), Sam Brodner (RS SO), Hunter Johnson (RS FR).

Leaving: Rachid Ibrahim

Arriving: Nakia Watson

Season grades

Biggest question: What can Jonathan Taylor do for an encore?

Jonathan Taylor was as impressive of a true freshman as Wisconsin has ever seen. He ran for an FBS freshman record 1,977 yards and added 13 touchdowns. He earned All-American honors, was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection and was finalist for the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the best running back in the country. The only thing more stunning than his move up the depth chart from fifth-string to first-string in fall camp was the astonishing array of broken tackles and breakaway runs that dominated the first half of Wisconsin’s season.

But this year is now behind him and everyone is wondering what he’ll do next. Historically, at least at Wisconsin, besting what a player has done in his first year hasn’t been easy. In fact, only one running back that rushed for at least 1,000 yards as a freshman ended up running for more in their second year — Anthony Davis in 2002. But it’s unrealistic to expect Taylor to one-up himself in 2018. Not only is the 1,977 yards the most by a freshman in FBS history, it’s the 10th-best mark in Big Ten history.

So, what is realistic to hope for? Well, one, watching Taylor become a three-down back. Most young players struggle in pass protection and he was no different. The good part is that the willingness is there. Now, it’s just a matter of technique. If he’s able to stay on the field for all three downs, he becomes an even bigger threat.

However, his biggest focus should be on ball security. Taylor lost six fumbles in 2017, the most of any running back in the country. That can’t continue if he’s going to reach the lofty heights that so many think he’s capable of.

Other notes:

No one quite knew what to expect when Wisconsin added Rachid Ibrahim as a graduate transfer last summer, but he proved to be very valuable. His ability as a third-down back covered for the injury to Chris James, and he contributed more than anyone thought he would. With him gone, James steps back into that role for his final year, along with spelling Taylor on early downs.

Junior Bradrick Shaw and redshirt sophomore Garrett Groshek provide depth.

At fullback, Alec Ingold steps into a starting role in place of the graduate Austin Ramesh. Wisconsin will need to identify a backup to the senior.

Depth chart:
Tailback
1) Jonathan Taylor (SO)
2) Chris James (SR)
3) Bradrick Shaw (JR)
4) Garrett Groshek (RS SO)

Fullback
1) Alec Ingold (SR)

What the future holds:
Quarterback

(6) Wisconsin 34, (10) Miami 24: Two-minute drill

MIAMI — Quarterback Alex Hornibrook tossed four touchdowns as Wisconsin beat Miami 34-24 in the Orange Bowl.

Play of the Game

Wisconsin was in trouble. Trailing 14-3 at the start of the second quarter, Miami had a chance to go up three scores. Outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel had other plans. Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier tried to throw a little quick screen and the Badgers’ junior stepped in the way and made the athletic interception.

The play proved to be the turning point in the game. Wisconsin would score 21 unanswered and didn’t trail again.

Game Balls

Offense: Alex Hornibrook

He received plenty of criticism this season, but the quarterback was fantastic most of the night. He threw four touchdowns, trusting his receivers in one-on-one coverage and they came through for him.

On the biggest drive of the season — after Miami had cut Wisconsin’s lead to 27-24 early in the fourth quarter — the sophomore led an 8-play, 75-yard drive that he finished off with a 6-yard scoring toss to Danny Davis. Hornibrook went 6-of-6 with five first downs and the touchdown.

It was an absolute must for Wisconsin to put together a drive and Hornibrook delivered his best of the season.

Defense: Andrew Van Ginkel

Van Ginkel was responsible for the biggest defensive play of the game — his second quarter interception — but he was big at other points as well. He finished with three tackles, including a sack, and nearly had another interception in the fourth quarter.

Wisconsin has rarely gone the junior college route in recruiting, but Van Ginkel ended up being an absolute steal. He’ll be one of the Badgers most important players in 2018.

Special Teams: Rafael Gaglianone

As he did all season, the Wisconsin kicker was money. He drilled a pair of kicks, including a 47-yarder. The junior finished the season 16-of-18 on the season and now sits just five field goals short of the most in school history.

Videos of the game

Much was made of the “turnover chain” Miami breaks out every time they force a turnover and they had a chance to use it once on Saturday night. But the Badgers had their own celebration with a chain and they got to use it a lot of more than the Hurricanes. Like on every one of their four touchdowns.

If that wasn’t clear enough as to how they felt about the turnover chain, then the video that caught Paul Chryst’s comments on it definitely should.

In their own words

“It’s awesome. That’s a record. No one has done that. That is something we all have to be proud of, and we are. Winning 13 games in a season is not easy.”

— LT Michael Deiter on Wisconsin winning a school-record 13 games

“It’s lit!”

— Wisconsin CB Derrick Tindal on the feeling of winning the Orange Bowl in his hometown

In Case You Missed It

— Running back Jonathan Taylor finished with 133 yards on the night and 1,926 yards for the season. The latter mark set the record for the most yards by a freshman in FBS history.

— Outside linebacker Leon Jacobs played his 59th career game — the most in NCAA history

— Cornerback Nick Nelson announced after the game he will forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.

— Offensive lineman Beau Benzschawel told reporters he will return for his senior year.

— Offensive lineman Michael Deiter and linebacker T.J. Edwards told reporters they haven’t decided whether they will return or leave for the NFL.

— Miami coach Mark Richt was flagged for contacting an official late in the first half. He was apparently upset over a non-call on the Badgers.

Inside the Numbers

13 — That’s the number of wins the Badgers had this season — the most in school history.

3 — That’s the number of touchdown catches for freshman wide receiver Danny Davis — the first player to record multiple touchdowns in a bowl game for the Badgers.

25 — That’s the number of touchdowns Alex Hornibrook threw this year — the second-most in school history.

What’s Next

Spring practice

Grading the Badgers: Running backs

Wisconsin’s template for success on the field has always been to play strong defense and run the ball effectively. The 2017 season may have been the height of that due to a number of different things, especially the group of running backs.

At the beginning of the season, many thought that running backs Chris James and Bradrick Shaw would shoulder the load of Wisconsin’s rushing attack. James followed coach Paul Chryst to Wisconsin from Pittsburgh and sat out the 2016 season due to NCAA rules. Shaw saw action in 11 games as a redshirt freshman and was productive. He rushed for 457 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Wisconsin looked to be in a good place at the running back position.

Then, Jonathan Taylor emerged onto the scene.

Taylor saw action in the season opening game against Utah State in a reserve role. He had 9 carries for a team-high 87 yards and a touchdown. He never looked back, starting the remaining 12 games and becoming one of the country’s most explosive running backs.

Taylor finished the season with 1,847 yards and 13 touchdowns as a freshman. He was a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the country’s top running back. Taylor also finished in sixth-place in the voting for the Heisman Trophy.

Taylor was able to set the record for the most times that a player was awarded the Big Ten Freshman of the Week. He was an 8-time recipient, eclipsing Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett’s previous record that was set in 2014. Taylor also won the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week twice.

While the backfield primarily belonged to Taylor, both James and Shaw were able to contribute during the season, although both missed time due to injuries.

Shaw was the opening day starter, and he finished the year with 96 carries for 365 yards and scored three touchdowns. He missed two games due to a leg injury that ruled him out for the season.

James played in 7 games, racking up 217 yards on 39 carries on the season. He didn’t start, but did cross the 100-yard mark against Florida Atlantic early in the season.

Another back to step up to the plate was walk-on Garrett Groshek. The former high school quarterback transitioned to running back during his redshirt season in 2016. He then saw action in all 13 games during the 2017 season. While much of his time was spent on special teams, he did contribute in the backfield with 57 carries for 294 yards and reached the end zone twice.

Wisconsin also utilized senior Rachid Ibrahim in obvious passing situations. He, like James, transferred to Wisconsin from Pittsburgh where he played under Chryst in 2013-14. For Wisconsin, he did a terrific job of protecting quarterback Alex Hornibrook in passing situations. He played in 12 games, totaling 31 touches for 183 yards on the year.

Taylor was the star of the backfield and rightfully so. He was one of the best backs in the country all year long. It will certainly be interesting to see how he improves as he grows older and matures at Wisconsin. A full offseason in the strength and conditioning program at Wisconsin could elevate him to an even higher level.

GRADE: A – Taylor was historically good as a freshman. His only issue was putting the ball on the ground from time to time. With all the other good he did that’s something that can be looked past for the time being. The rest of the group did a good job when Taylor wasn’t in the game, but there’s no doubt who the star is.

Wisconsin’s formula wasn’t enough to beat Ohio State

INDIANAPOLIS – Wisconsin was as close to the College Football Playoffs as they’ve ever been. The Badgers came into the Big Ten Championship with a perfect 12-0 record and ranked No. 4 in the country. A win against Ohio State would have given them a berth in the semi-finals.

It wasn’t meant to be. The Badgers finally dug a hole too deep for themselves to climb out of. Time and time again they were a team that was much better in the second half of games than they were the first. Saturday night was much of the same for Wisconsin.

To close out the first half, Wisconsin defensive back Nick Nelson blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt off the right foot of Ohio State kicker Sean Nuernberger to keep the score at 21-10 in favor of Ohio State. At one point, Wisconsin faced a 14-point deficit, their largest of the season.

The Badgers were able to turn things on in the second half. They outscored Ohio State 11-6 and had the opportunity to win the game in the final two minutes. This time, they just couldn’t pull through.

Wisconsin had gotten as far as they did by managing the game in the first half and taking control in the second half. Ohio State was simply too talented for that to happen, despite Wisconsin’s best efforts.

The Buckeyes built their first half lead on big plays and speed that Wisconsin hadn’t seen to date this year. They struck first on an 84-yard touchdown pass from quarterback J.T. Barrett to wide receiver Terry McLaurin. McLaurin beat Wisconsin safety Joe Ferguson deep over the middle and won a footrace to the end zone.

After Wisconsin tied the game on an Andrew Van Ginkel interception returned for a touchdown Ohio State responded with another big play. Buckeye wide receiver Parris Campbell caught a swing pass from Barrett, broke a tackle from Wisconsin safety Natrell Jamerson, and took it 57 yards for another Ohio State touchdown.

Add in a 77-yard run from running back J.K. Dobbins to set up a Barrett touchdown run from a yard out and the Badgers had given up three plays of 50 or more yards in the first half. In their first 12 games combined they had only given up three such plays.

The second half was a different story, while they still allowed a 53-yard run to Dobbins, the defense was much better. After allowing a whopping 309 yards of offense in the first half, the Badgers only gave up 140 yards in the second half, despite the 53-yard scamper. The defense looked much like it had all season after halftime, keeping Ohio State out of the end zone.

Offensively, the Badgers were never able to get their running game going. The staple of Wisconsin football was only able to muster 60 total yards on the ground. That was partly due to playing from behind and partly due to Ohio State’s defensive line having their way with Wisconsin’s offensive line. Linebackers Jerome Baker and Tuf Borland were free to make tackles. Baker finished with a team-high 16 tackles and Borland was behind him with seven.

Freshman running back Jonathan Taylor was unable to generate any running room, finishing with 41 yards on 15 carries, by far his lowest output of the season. That meant the Badgers had to rely on the arm of quarterback Alex Hornibrook. He attempted a career-high 40 passes, completing 19 of them for 229 yards and two interceptions. One interception came while searching for tight end Troy Fumagalli deep in Ohio State territory. The other pick came on the Badgers’ final offensive play, a fourth down with 20 yards to go with 1:16 on the clock.

Wisconsin was set back in the fourth and long situation due to a holding penalty on offensive lineman Michael Deiter on first down. On that same play, Hornibrook looked for wide receiver Danny Davis down the field. Davis was tangled up with an Ohio State defensive back on a play that certainly could have warranted a flag. In fact, the field judge grabbed at his penalty flag before having second thoughts.

If that penalty flag comes out, there’s no telling what happens. It might have changed the game, it might not have. It certainly made Wisconsin’s comeback effort more difficult.

In the end, everything was too much to comeback from. The slow start, the big plays, the lack of a rushing attack, the questionable no call on the final drive, it was all too much to overcome.

The Badgers simply couldn’t follow the same formula they had used to reach the Big Ten Championship to find a way to the College Football Playoffs.

Jonathan Taylor named Big Ten Freshman of the Year

MADISON – Wisconsin freshman running back Jonathan Taylor has been named the Big Ten Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year, the conference announced. This is the first time a Badger has won the award since linebacker Chris Borland and running back James White won back-to-back awards in 2009 and 2010. In total, Taylor is the sixth Badger to take home this honor since the award was instituted in 1986.

This season Taylor set a new Big Ten record for the most Freshman of the Week honors given out by the conference. He earned the award eight times, breaking the previous record of seven set by Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett in 2014.

Taylor, a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, has accumulated 1,806 yards to date and 13 touchdowns. He has an opportunity to become the FBS leader in rushing yards by a freshman, needing 303 yards to pass Ron Dayne’s mark of 2,106 from 1996. Taylor currently sits in third place on the freshman list, Adrian Peterson had 1,925 in 2004 at Oklahoma.

He’s eclipsed the 100-yard mark in nine of Wisconsin’s 12 games, including going over the 150-yard mark five times, including three games of over 200 yards.

Taylor did not win the Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year, nor the Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year. Those awards went to Saquon Barkley of Penn State. This is the second consecutive year that Barkley has taken home each honor.

Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor wins Big Ten Freshman of the Week award

MADISON – Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor was honored as the Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the eighth time this season, the conference announced Monday.

Taylor’s eighth Big Ten Freshman of the Week award gives him most all-time in the Big Ten. He was tied with Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, who won the award seven times in 2014. Taylor has now won the honor four weeks in a row and seven of the last eight weeks. The sole week during that stretch he did not win the award was against Illinois when he only played in the first half due to an ankle injury.

Taylor earned this award with 149 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries against Minnesota. It was the ninth time he has crossed the 100-yard mark in a game this season. He currently leads the Big Ten in rushing yards with 1,806 through 12 games. Taylor also has 13 rushing touchdowns for Wisconsin.

His mark of 1,806 yards is also the third most in FBS history for a freshman He sits behind only Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma, 2004) who had 1,925 yards and Wisconsin great Ron Dayne who finished with 2,109 yards in 1996.

The Badgers will travel to Indianapolis to take on Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game on Saturday night at 7PM.

Three keys to Wisconsin beating Minnesota

MADISON – Saturday afternoon against Minnesota the Wisconsin Badgers will look to control Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the 14th consecutive season. Wisconsin’s last loss to Minnesota came in the 2003 season when they fell to the Gophers 37-34 on a Rhys Lloyd 35-yard field goal as time expired. In 2004 the Badgers handily beat the Gophers 38-14, and they haven’t lost in the rivalry since.

Here are three keys to victory for the Badgers to keep Paul Bunyan’s Axe in Madison for the 14th straight season:

1. Run the football – It’s no secret that Wisconsin wants to run the football effectively in each and every week. They boast one of the country’s best running backs in freshman Jonathan Taylor. He’s currently third in the country in rushing yards with 1,657 on the season. Taylor has been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week a record-tying seven time. A big game against the Gophers could give him sole possession of that record.

Minnesota’s defense hasn’t exactly been stout against the run. They’ve given up over four yards per carry. That is quite the difference after Taylor rushed for 132 yards against one of the country’s best rushing defenses last week against Michigan. Taylor could be poised for another big game in his first taste of this rivalry. Look for him to have his ninth 100-yard game, and possibly his fourth game of over 200 yards.

2. Limit mistakes – In nearly every upset that occurs in college football, the underdog team is able to win the turnover battle. Wisconsin has made quite a few mistakes, but been consistently bailed out by an outstanding defense. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook has thrown 13 interceptions on the season, which is tied for third most in the country. He’s thrown an interception in each of the Badgers’ eight Big Ten wins.

This would be an excellent time for Hornibrook to play his best game of the season and build a bit of momentum before the Badgers head to Indianapolis to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship game. The defense will likely be able to bail out Hornibrook if necessary this weekend, but the Buckeyes are a different story.

3. Follow the plan – Wisconsin has stuck to the same plan in nearly all of their games this season. Things have been close in the first half. They’ve had an opportunity to feel out their opponent, the defense has been strong and the game has been close. The second half of games is where the Badgers have dominated, only trailing for 8:49 in the second half this season. They only other game this season in which they trailed during the second half this year was the Big Ten opening matchup with Northwestern.

If the game is close heading into the second half, as it should be, Wisconsin will find themselves in very comfortable territory and likely to pull away. It would be even better if they took control a little earlier this week. Wisconsin is the more talented team, but anything can happen in rivalry games.

Prediction: Wisconsin completes their first ever 12-0 season with a 38-13 win to keep Paul Bunyan’s Axe in Madison for at least one more year.

Jonathan Taylor’s impact noticed across the country

MADISON – Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor wanted to come in and make an impact for the Badgers. He just didn’t know when he would be able to.

“I always knew that I could make an impact,” Taylor told reporters. “It was just a matter of time of once I learned everything and once I just caught up to the speed of the game and got into the whole college flow.”

Taylor has certainly gotten into the flow of the collegiate game. He has not only been the best players on Wisconsin’s offensive unit this season, but one of the country’s best, as well. He’s currently third in rushing yards in the entire country with 1,657. That’s impressive for anyone, let alone a player that was dominating high school opponents 12 months ago.

He’s gone from dominating high school teams to tearing up the Big Ten in a short time, and he’s been deservedly recognized for his efforts. Tuesday, he was named a finalist for the Doak Walker award. That honor goes to the country’s most outstanding running back and has every year since 1990. A true freshman has never won the award and Taylor is trying to become the first. The other two finalists are Saquon Barkley of Penn State and Bryce Love of Stanford.

Taylor not only could become the first freshman to win the Doak Walker, but also become the Big Ten record holder for most Freshman of the Week awards won. After the Badgers defeating Michigan in week 12 he was honored by the conference for the seventh time. That tied him with J.T. Barrett of Ohio State for the most ever. A strong performance against a Minnesota defense that has allowed 4.6 yards per carry on the season would likely give him his record-breaking eighth award.

“I was definitely surprised, just getting that many Big Ten Freshman of the Week [awards], I didn’t know what to say, I was just like, ‘that’s crazy’,” Taylor said when he was told that he had the opportunity to break Barrett’s record this week. “It came down to me focusing every week and just doing the best that I can. Focusing on how can I help the team this week, how can I help the team get out with a W?”

He’s done more than just help the team, at times, he’s carried the team.

To say that his focus is on breaking the Big Ten ecord would be a disservice to Taylor and the rivalry that Minnesota and Wisconsin share on the field.

“It should be fun, but we definitely talk about respecting the rivalry, so we’re going in and trying to give them our best shot,” Taylor said.

Taylor giving Minnesota his best shot could catapult him further on to the national scene than he already is. He’s already had three games where he has gone over 200 yards, and two more over 150 yards. Add another one to that list and the possibilities are endless.

He’s impressed those across the country, obviously, with the national attention he’s gotten. He’s also impressed teammates of his, including fellow freshman Danny Davis.

“It’s been crazy, man,” Davis said. “Some of the stuff he does is unreal. You continue to do that, and this is just a stage for him to continue to keep getting better as the years progress. I’m excited to play with him.”

Taylor’s sights aren’t only on breaking Barrett’s record and being a Walker finalist, however.

“Every kid dreams about winning the Heisman,” Taylor said. “Coming in that wasn’t my main, I always talking about how my focus was just staying ready and just being ready whenever my number was called.”

Wisconsin has had a great history of backs to win both the Walker and the Heisman. Ron Dayne, Montee Ball, and Melvin Gordon have all won the Walker award, with Dayne doubling as the Heisman winner. While it’s uncertain, if not unlikely that Taylor joins them this year, it would surprise no one to find Taylor among those names by the end of his time at Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor honored again

MADISON – The University of Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor has been named the Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week for his performance against Michigan in week 12, the conference announced.

Taylor crossed the 100-yard mark for the eighth time on the season against the Wolverines, amassing 132 yards on 19 carries. He now sits at 1,657 rushing yards on the season, good enough for third most in the FBS behind Bryce Love of Stanford and Rashaad Penny of San Diego State. Of his eight games with over 100 yards, Taylor has crossed the 200-yard mark in three of them, and the 150-yard mark in two others.

This week’s honor places Taylor in elite company, as he has now tied Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett for the most Freshman of the Week honors in Big Ten history with seven. He has the opportunity to become the sole record holder this weekend when the Badgers take on Minnesota in the regular season finale.

His 1,657 yards on the ground this season pushes him past Herschel Walker (Georgia) for eighth place all-time on the FBS freshman rushing list.

Wisconsin moved to 11-0 for the first time in program history with their 24-10 win over Michigan. They close out the regular season at Minnesota in week 13.

Taylor split the award with Indiana running back Morgan Ellison. He had 149 yards and two touchdowns in Indiana’s win over Rutgers Saturday.

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)