Michigan (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) upended Maryland 42-21 last weekend to remain unbeaten in the conference.
Jim Harbaugh’s squad boasts a playmaker at quarterback paired with a dynamic defense that’s one of the best in the nation.
B5Q will have a full preview of Michigan up later this week, but we asked our friend Josh LaFond at Maize N Brew stopped by to help us break down the Wolverines.
It’s a primetime game with some College GameDay feel in Ann Arbor with the Badgers and Wolverines this weekend. What’s been the general feeling about this Michigan squad so far this season?
It’s been one of cautious optimism. Michigan fans (for the most part) were fully expecting a win against Notre Dame in week one, and when the Wolverines lost all hell broke loose with the fans either over the fence, on it, or close to it.
However, following the bludgeonings against inferior opponents over the next three weeks, a come-from-behind win against Northwestern, and a dismantling of a pretty good Maryland team, the optimism is back. But considering we are only halfway through the year and the Wolverines are about to hit the gauntlet of their schedule—starting this Saturday, the outcome of the game against Wisconsin will show us a lot about where this team is and where they might be going.
We always ask about injuries. Who’s banged up, who could be out or returning, and what could be the impact on Saturday night?
Michigan has had a plethora of injuries lately it seems, but by all accounts they should be getting a few key contributors back this week, mainly running back Chris Evans and star defensive lineman Rashan Gary.
Unfortunately, the interior of the Wolverine defensive line is banged up and the status of a few starters and key contributors is in doubt. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for Aubrey Solomon, Michael Dwumfour, and Carlo Kemp. All three of those guys rotate at defensive tackle and will be key in trying to contain quite possibly the nations’ best running back in Jonathan Taylor.
I’ll ask about the defense before the offense. It is legit. Michigan leads the nation in total defense and passing yards allowed, 10th in scoring defense and sixth in rush defense. Who and what is causing so much havoc for opposing offenses?
Defensive coordinator Don Brown is becoming a household name across not only the midwest but the Big Ten and for good reason. He’s consistently fielded top 5 defenses during his years at Boston College, and now over his first three years in Michigan.
Brown runs a man-to-man scheme in which they blitz on almost every down some way, and somehow. That kind of consistent pressure on enemy quarterbacks and steady heat coming right at the running game, it can knock the best of offenses off track. Think of it as organized chaos.
As far as players are concerned, superstar defensive end Chase Winovich has really come into his own and has put up some of the best stats in the Big Ten at his position. He has really stepped up in the run game and is positioning himself to be one of the all-time greatest UM lineman. He will be a MAJOR key in stopping the Badger offense come Saturday.
The offense appears to have improved significantly with the addition of quarterback Shea Patterson. How has he influenced this unit, and who are his main weapons/targets within this offense?
Shea Patterson brings a level of talent to the position that Michigan hasn’t had since Chad Henne donned the maize and blue. His ability to escape the pocket when it collapses and make plays on the run is easing the growing pains of a progressing offensive line that has needed time to develop, and the accuracy with which he’s thrown has made more plenty of “ooh and ahh” plays thus far.
Look for wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones and tight end Zach Gentry to share the majority of the workload against the Badgers. Peoples-Jones has been shredding the tops off of defenses on the back end and has found the end zone more times than not this year. Gentry on the other hand is less of a big play guy per say, and more of a reliable “move the chains” type of option. Expect the big plays to come from Peoples-Jones, and the intermediate passing game to be filtered through Gentry.
Where do you think Michigan can gain an edge against Wisconsin, and where could the Badgers find any advantage against the Wolverines?
I would say Michigan’s offense against the Wisconsin defense—mostly in the passing game. The Wolverines are hitting their stride right now in that department, and (at least from an outsider standpoint) the Badgers are struggling defending the passing game. I would expect Harbaugh and company to have some plays dialed up early to get Patterson rolling.
There’s a huge weakness and I mentioned it briefly earlier, and that’s the interior defensive line. There’ve been way too many injuries for comfort especially when you are facing Jonathan Taylor and the Wisconsin ground game. If the Wolverines can’t get healthy and stay healthy during the game for that matter, it’ll be a LONG day watching Taylor grind it out on the ground.
What’s your key match-up for the game, and your score prediction?
Michigan’s offensive line versus Wisconsin’s front seven. By all accounts, the Wolverine line is much, much improved under new offensive line coach Ed Warinner but fans will always remain skeptical. I mean, when you suffer through lines that can’t tread water for 10 years can you blame us?
I think the Wolverine offense will do just enough against a reeling Badger defense when it counts.
Michigan 24 Wisconsin 14.