Wisconsin at Northwestern
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. CT
Location: Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill.
Weather Forecast: 54F, Sunny, 10% chance of rain, Wind SE at 5 mph
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: WIBA-AM 1310, WIBA-FM 101.5 and the Badger Radio Network
Coverage: A week's worth of coverage on SB Nation's UW-NU Game Page
Jake Harris (9-1, +141): Wisconsin 34, Northwestern 31
Adam Hoge (9-1, +162): Northwestern 28, Wisconsin 27
Lake the Posts: Northwestern 30, Wisconsin 27
Look, this is a game Wisconsin should win. The Badgers are favored by a touchdown because they are quite simply better than Northwestern at playing football. But that's why upsets are called upsets.
Beyond the reality that Wisconsin usually struggles at Northwestern in both football and basketball, its been four weeks since the Badgers played a team above .500 and that was when they were busy losing to Iowa. It appears the Badgers have made strides since their loss to Iowa, but let's not forget about some of their problems at Indiana two weeks ago. UW has not looked great on the road this season and Northwestern is playing its best football of the season. Upset city.
Who has the edge?
Special teams: Northwestern
Intangibles: Even (it's a road game, but let's not forget there will probably be more red in the stands than purple)
Five Questions with Lake the Posts
1) Besides the Iowa win, Northwestern's results this season don't look all that impressive. A close win against Eastern Michigan, a loss to Syracuse, a struggle against Indiana, e.t.c. Now, those of us who look at more than the final scores know that despite the final score, NU gave Penn State a tough time and it appears this team is getting better week-by-week. How good is this team in reality?
This is one of the more enigmatic teams we've had. If there was one word to describe the team until Iowa it was "flat". We'd play stretches of fantastic football (see: shutting out Michigan State for 1st half) and periods we're we looked lost (see: Eastern Michigan 2nd half). The biggest problem has been defensive chemistry. We've started 20 different players this year due to injury and no joke, at one point were starting a 5th string unrecruited walk-on at CB (who played VERY well by the way). Our secondary was expected to be an all-time best, but I don't think we've started all four in the backfield this season. On offense we've been very productive in yardage, but when we got between the opponent's 40-30 we tend to stall out. We're not converting nearly enough drives in to points considering how much we move the ball. They've still yet to play a full 60 minute game.
2) What's Northwestern's perspective on Mike Hankwitz? Do you feel like you got a steal?
Yes. I believe the Wisconsin D was 37th or 38th when he got fired, which seemed unfathomable for us because we were always in the lower quartile with Greg Colby. There was nothing worse than scoring 40 and knowing it may not be enough. Last year was incredible - our D was amazing which is we had such high hopes for this year. Everyone is extremely high on Hankwitz, although I wish he'd be more aggressive late in games and not just always rush 3.
3) The defense has been better in recent weeks, but overall, it appears to be inconsistent. What are some of your concerns with how Northwestern will defend Wisconsin?
We have indeed been better, but our rush D, while solid statisically, hasn't faced the likes of a John Clay. We got gashed pretty good last week at times so it is of major concern, because you nailed it - we're inconsistent. We tend to give up the big pass play eventually against teams that pound it.
4) Has Mike Kafka been better than you expected? Can he expolit the Badger cornerbacks?
Yes and kind of. He's been much better passing than most expected - he's one of the nation's leaders in accuracy, but the only knock on Mike is the deep ball (although last week he looked very good going deep). Everyone expected him to be a run-first QB, but his running has been much less than expected. With his recent hamstring injury that sidelined him for much of the Penn State and Iowa games, he's almost completely reliant on the pass which is a concern. I expect us to pass under the coverage like we have all year.
5) It's Senior Day in Evanston and despite the Badgers always bringing thousands of fans to Ryan Field, the Wildcats seem to have Wisconsin's number at home. Who you got in this one and why?
I've been pretty darn good picking NU straight up this year which is saying something when you look at our schedule. I'm not going to lie, you're playmakers scare the hell out of me, but I'm simply going with the 'Cats because the jedi mind trick isn't as fun. I'm going to go with NU 30-27 and I'm attributing it to Hankwitz being able to pull some defensive magic out of the hat against his former boss. We HAVE to have the edge in turnover margin and it appears when Sherrick McManis makes an INT we win. Here's to Sherrick making a key pick!