Hello college football fans! I am starting a new series in which I preview and predict the College GameDay matchup of each week. This weekend GameDay heads to Ann Arbor, Michigan as the #12 Wolverines take on the #15 Wisconsin Badgers in primetime. Below I preview both teams and provide a prediction on the marquee matchup of the week, which features stingy defenses and power run football.
Let’s kickoff this preview with the visiting Badgers. Offensively, Wisconsin has been steady, but has yet to produce eye-popping numbers. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook has drastically improved from last season. Through 5 games, Hornibrook has thrown for 963 yards and seven scores against just two picks. Where the Badger offense really shines is when it is powered through running back Jonathan Taylor. As a freshman, Taylor eclipsed 2000 yards, and he is off to another fast start this year. Halfway through the season, he has racked up 849 yards to go along with 8 touchdowns. If they are playing up to par Wisconsin’s offense is a well oiled machine that has the potential to give opposing defense fits. Defensively, the Badgers secondary is completely depleted. Safeties D’Cota Dixon and Scott Nelson are out with a foot injury and a targeting suspension respectively. To go along with that, cornerbacks Faion Hicks, Deron Harrell, Traivon Blaylock and Caesar Williams are all banged up; their statuses remain unknown/unlikely for Saturday’s game. Without the help of their defensive backfield, the Badgers could be in for a long night against Shea Patterson and company.
Looking at Michigan, this is a team that seems to be gelling and coming into their own just as the toughest portion of their schedule begins. On the offense side of the ball, the Wolverines are really starting to click. Shea Patterson boasts the second highest completion percentage in the Big Ten and seems to be getting comfortable in his new offense. After just throwing for 9 touchdown passes all of last season, Michigan has already surpassed that number with 12 heading into week 7. The Wolverines possess one of the deepest receiving units in the country with 7 wideouts, 3 tight ends, 3 running backs, and 2 fullbacks having already recorded a reception. This newfound confidence in the passing game has opened up the ground game for the Wolverines. While running back Chris Evans has missed some time due to injury, Jim Harbaugh expects him to be back this week. To go along with the dynamic duo of Karan Higdon and Evans at running back is fullback Ben Mason. Mason has been a huge spark for the the Wolverines in short yardage situations. Mason has carried the ball 16 times for 41 yards and 6 touchdowns. This Wolverines offense is heating up and should matchup nicely against an injured Badger defense. Defensively, the Wolverines are number one in total defense, and are anchored by the lethal pass rushing duo of Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary. The Wolverines also have stars in linebacker Devin Bush and corners Lavert Hill and David Long. Although discipline has been an issue for this unit and the penalty numbers are incredibly high, this defense can still play with the best in nation. Should the Wolverines be able to keep penalty numbers low, their exotic blitz packages will give the Wisconsin offense some trouble.
The Badgers have already stolen a game at night on the road this season against Iowa. Despite being tested in hostile environments, I can’t see the Badgers overcoming the losses on defense. Look for Shea Patterson and the Michigan offense to surgically pick apart Wisconsin’s defense on Saturday night. The Badgers will keep it close in the first half, but the home field advantage coupled with a stingy defense will be too much for Paul Chryst’s team to overcome as Michigan pulls away. The Wolverines come out of the weekend 6-1 as they gear up for their massive in state showdown with Sparty.
Michigan 31-20 Wisconsin