The teams: The No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers 4-0, 1-0) vs the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines (4-0, 1-0)
The time: 2:30 p.m. CDT, Saturday
The place: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.
The TV coverage: ABC with Dave Flemming and Brian Griese on the call, and Todd McShay on the sideline.
The last time: In 2010, Wisconsin ran the ball 30 straight time at one point in the second half on their way to a 48-28 victory in Ann Arbor.
The series: Michigan 49-14-1
The line: Michigan -11
The Badgers injury report:
OLB Vince Biegel (foot) — OUT
K Rafael Gaglianone (back) — OUT
ILB Chris Orr (knee) — OUT
CB Natrell Jamerson (leg) — OUT
RB Bradrick Shaw (shoulder) — OUT
G Jon Dietzen (foot) — QUESTIONABLE
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
1) Next man up
Wisconsin has been stung by injuries throughout the past two seasons and got more bad news on Thursday. That’s when the school announced kicker Rafagel Gaglianone would miss the rest of the year after back surgery and ESPN reported that outside linebacker Vince Biegel would be out 2 to 4 weeks after undergoing surgery to fix a cracked bone in his foot.
Both injuries will test Wisconsin, but especially Biegel’s. The emotional leader of the team, his presence raised the level of play for everyone around him.
247Sports reported on Friday that junior Garrett Dooley will get the first crack at filling Biegel’s spot, though other options include redshirt freshman Zack Baun and junior Jack Cichy, who played at outside linebacker for 2 ½ years before moving to the inside last season.
2) An encore?
Quarterback Alex Hornibrook looked nothing like the redshirt freshman he is when he made the first start of his career last week against Michigan State. Though he turned the ball over twice, he more than made up for the mistakes with timely third-down throws that moved the chains.
Now comes a Michigan defense that loves to get after the passer, ranking second in the country in sacks (17) through the first four games of the year. The confidence in sending additional players at the quarterback is buoyed by a solid secondary, though they must replace starting corner Jeremy Clark, who is gone for the season after tearing his ACL. Still, the challenge for Wisconsin’s receivers will be just as big as it was in the opener against LSU’s talented back end.
If the Badgers are to win, Hornibrook and his stable of weapons have to be on the top of their game.
3) What an opportunity
For the third time this year, the Badgers will take on a team ranked in the top 10 of the AP Top 25. The victories in those games have set them up for this opportunity against the fourth-ranked team in the country. It can be argued it’s the biggest regular season game the Badgers have played since 2011.
A win here, where nobody on a national level is picking them and they are 11-point underdogs, would dwarf the victories over LSU and Michigan State, and set the Badgers up with potentially the biggest home game in school history against Ohio State on Oct. 15.
Yes, what an opportunity indeed.
4) Can the running game be effective?
Most thought Wisconsin’s running game would be better than a year ago, when they averaged just 150 yards per game, the lowest total for the program since 1995. But that hasn’t materialized so far through four games. Just once this year — against Akron — have the Badgers run for more than 200 yards and had a per carry average of more than 4.0 yards. For a school that prides itself on being able to run the ball effectively, it just hasn’t happened.
The chances they breakout against Michigan are rather low, though teams are averaging 122 yards rushing against the Wolverines this season. What should help is a healthier Corey Clement. The junior tailback is still dealing with an ankle injury, but he said this week he’s as healthy as he’s been since before suffering the injury against Akron.
No matter what, though, Wisconsin has to stick with the running game. In the 10 games under Chryst where they’ve run the ball at least 40 times, they are 10-0. It means they’re controlling the clock and keeping Michigan off the field.
5) Rise to the occasion
A week after bottling up Michigan State’s offense, the Badgers defense must come up with an even better effort against Jim Harbaugh and company. That’s because for the first time in school history, the Wolverines scored 40 points or more in the first four games of the season and did it with a balanced group on offense. They are averaging 229 yards per game on the ground and 238 yards through the air. This will be the first offense Wisconsin has seen this year with that kind of balance, meaning they won’t be able to sell out to stop one or the other.
What the defense can do, though, is create confusion for sophomore quarterback Wilton Speights. He’s thrown nine touchdowns and just one interception, but the looks Wisconsin throws at him on Saturday should lead to some indecision on his part, just like they did a week ago against the Spartans’ Tyler O’Connor.
Doing that will be the key to slowing a Michigan team that has seemed unstoppable at times this year.
NUMBERS TO CONSIDER
1 — That’s how many times Wisconsin has won at Michigan since 1995
7 — That’s how many turnovers Wisconsin has forced in their two other matchups with top-10 teams this year
8-0 — That’s Wisconsin’s record in their last 11 games when holding teams under 100 yards rushing
29 — That’s the consecutive number of starts by outside linebacker Vince Biegel, a streak that will come to end on Saturday.
Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Michigan 23, Wisconsin 13 (2-2 on the season)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 23, Michigan 17 (2-2 on the season)
Jake Zimmermann’s prediction: Wisconsin 21, Michigan 20 (3-1 on the season)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 23, Michigan 20 (3-1 on the season)
Eric Rogers’ prediction: Michigan 21, Wisconsin 20 (2-2 on the season