5th Quarter Consensus: Badgers headed for shootout on homecoming

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Will the Badgers take care of the Wildcats on homecoming? Our staff believes they will.

The Predictions

Phil Mitten (5-0, +38): Wisconsin 34, Northwestern 30

Jake Harris (5-0, +57): Wisconsin 36, Northwestern 24

Andrew Rosin (4-1, +44): Wisconsin 37, Northwestern 30

Jake Kocorowski (4-1, +61): Wisconsin 34, Northwestern 28

Mike Fiammetta (4-1, +63): Wisconsin 31, Northwestern 17

Andy Johnson (4-1, +72): Wisconsin 33, Northwestern 27

Louis Bien (4-1, +77): Wisconsin 38, Northwestern 31

The Reasoning

Northwestern and Wisconsin have a lot in common. Both teams are coming off of heartbreaking losses to Ohio State. And neither team has had much success in close games as of late.

The difference, critical to this matchup, is that Wisconsin has had two weeks since its defeat in Columbus to rest, get healthy and prepare for a diverse Northwestern offense.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats played a physically and emotionally exhausting game against the Buckeyes just one week ago. Few could blame them for suffering a letdown at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday.

Northwestern gave up 248 yards on the ground, including 168 and three touchdowns to Carlos Hyde last week. Expect Wisconsin to exploit the Wildcats' suspect run defense with James White and Melvin Gordon, who should be fully healed from the knee injury he suffered against Ohio State.

Joel Stave will be looking to build on his most impressive outing of the season. It will help to have Kenzel Doe and Jacob Pedersen back from injury, two targets who need to become more involved in the passing game to take some of the attention away from Jared Abbrederis.

The familiar saying that a team that has two quarterbacks really has none does not apply to Northwestern. Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian share the load and combined to complete 25 of 31 passes for 343 yards against the Buckeyes. Colter hit on all 12 of his pass attempts.

The Wildcats will also rely on the production of senior running back Venric Mark. In addition to his abilities coming out of the backfield, he is a threat in the return game and took two punts back for touchdowns in 2012.

The Badgers probably wish they hadn't let Northwestern kicker Jeff Budzien go to Evanston from Hartland, Wisconsin. Budzien has made 28 of his last 31 field goal attempts. By contrast, Kyle French missed a costly try against the Buckeyes.

Pat Fitzgerald is a heck of a coach, but getting his team motivated for a physical game in Madison, where the Wildcats have not won in 13 years, is a tall order.

Who has the edge?

Offense: Northwestern

Defense: Wisconsin

Special Teams: Northwestern

Coaching: Wisconsin

Intangibles: Wisconsin

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