Nineteen seniors will play their last collegiate game at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, as the No. 21 Wisconsin Badgers (8-2, 5-1) host the No. 20 Northwestern Wildcats (8-2, 5-1).
The offense has seen significant contributions this season from such seniors as quarterback Joel Stave, fullback Derek Watt, left tackle Tyler Marz, and wide receiver Alex Erickson. Tight end Austin Traylor emerged as a receiving threat early in the season before suffering an arm injury in Wisconsin's 10-6 loss to Iowa. He's started to practice again, but will he be an additional offensive weapon against a potent Northwestern defense on Saturday? Likewise for junior Corey Clement, who's still battling back from his sports hernia injury.
Seniors Tanner McEvoy, Darius Hillary and Michael Caputo have led a Badgers pass defense ranked No. 4 in the nation, allowing only 181.9 yards per game through the air. Outside linebacker Joe Schobert ranks nationally in sacks and tackles for loss, and is second on the team in tackles with 58, while ranking up honors as a Bednarik and Lombardi semi-finalist. Fellow outside linebacker Jesse Hayes has proved to be a solid back-up to Schobert and junior Vince Biegel on the outside.
The Badgers will have to contend with a feisty, defensive-minded Northwestern squad. For more, here's Andrew Rosin's preview:
When you look at Northwestern, their passing game is highly similar to Maryland. The receiving crew is far from a strength as superback! Dan Vitale currently leads the team in receptions with 28. In fact, if we're being truthful, wide receiver Christian Jones, second in receptions with 22, is more H-Back than pure wide receiver, and running back Justin Jackson is third in receptions with 18. So the Badgers veteran secondary is going to have an edge over the wide receivers of Northwestern even before we talk about their quarterback.
When you talk about freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson, you have someone who has all the positives and negatives of Maryland's Perry Hills. Thorson is mobile, helping to beat Nebraska and Stanford with his legs. That said, he's 57-of-117 for 548 yards with two touchdowns against three interceptions since the Minnesota game. It's a 48.7 percent completion rate and 4.7 yards per attempt. As it stands, they're going to have to pull something unseen in the passing game if the conference leading Badgers rush defense shuts Jackson down.That is no guarantee, however. Jackson rolled off a season high 162 yards in last season's match-up with Wisconsin, and has put up over 100 yards against both Duke and Penn State, which are the best rush defenses he has faced to date. Wisconsin does represent another step up, and again, passing has been theoretical at times for Northwestern, but Jackson is quietly in third place for rushing yards in the Big Ten.
The big question for Wisconsin offensively. Will redshirt senior tight end Austin Traylor be back for the game this week? Traylor has been hurt since the Iowa game, and outside of the brief flash of brilliance for running back Dare Ogunbowale against Nebraska and the return for junior running back Corey Clement against Rutgers, the Badgers have missed Traylor's blocking ability. The offensive line is going to be cohesive at the very least, though Northwestern has been above average against the run. That has shown itself to be more than enough to limit the Badgers effectiveness in the run game.
Not to call Northwestern's defensive line as dominant as Maryland's, but defensive ends Deonte Gibson and Noah Lowry are active in getting to the backfield -- and from the looks of things sophomore linebacker Anthony Walker's set to be a star by the time he leaves Evanston. He's currently one of 28 players sitting over 90 tackles and is tied with Wisconsin outside linebacker Joe Schobert in tackles for loss with 15.5. The Badgers will need blocking help in this one.
Read below for the game's complete viewing information.
Northwestern Wildcats vs. Wisconsin Badgers | Saturday, Nov. 21 | 3:42 p.m. ET / 2:42 p.m. CT | Camp Randall Stadium, Madison Wis.
TV: Big Ten Network
Live stream: The game can be live streamed on BTN2Go (subscription required)
Mobile: BTN2Go mobile app for iOS and Android phones.
TV crew: Kevin Kugler (play-by-play), Matt Millen (analyst), Lisa Byington (sideline reporter)
Radio: Badger Sports Network; Satellite: Sirius 135, XM 195; Mobile: iHeartRadio app (WIBA)
Radio crew: Matt Lepay (play-by-play), Mike Lucas (analyst), Mark Tauscher (analyst), Scott Nelson (sideline reporter)
Odds: Wisconsin, -10; 40 o/u