No. 11 Michigan (2-0) travels to Madison this week for a clash of unbeatens in a game that could go a long way in deciding the fate of each team’s postseason positioning. The No. 13 Badgers (2-0) have split the last ten meetings with Michigan, but lost in bad fashion last season in Ann Arbor. Still, Wisconsin looks much improved and ready for the test on Saturday.
What does Wisconsin need to do to come away with a win? Lets take a look.
Win the time of possession battle
Wisconsin football is notorious for controlling the clock and bleeding minutes out of each game and shrinking the number of possessions each team gets. Running the football and controlling the tempo are staples of any great Wisconsin offense.
Last year, the offense wasn’t great, and it showed in this key stat. In 2018 the Badgers ranked No. 27 in time of possession. Not bad, but not nearly high enough for Wisconsin to execute efficiently. In each of Paul Chryst’s other seasons as head coach, the Badgers had been in the top five in time of possession. That means 2018-19 was a significant drop off.
Last year the Badgers lost five games, and lost on the time of possession battle in four of those games, BYU being the only outlier. In addition, the Badgers won eight games in 2018 and won the time of possession battle in each of them. Correlation? Win the time of possession, you probably win the game.
If Wisconsin wants to come away with a W on Saturday they’ll need to sustain drives and control the clock much better than they did a year ago. That comes with third down conversions and passing the ball efficiently. The Badgers were 2-for-11 on third down last year, and only completed seven passes against the Wolverines. If you want to win this game, each of those areas will have to be better.
Make the arm beat you
Michigan has implemented a new offense for 2019 after bringing in Josh Gattis to call the plays. Jim Harbaugh saw the writing on the wall in his ground and pound offense, and brought in Gattis to provide a modern twist. The new offense runs through quarterback Shea Patterson.
In a spread look Patterson has a whole host of plays and options that suit his game much more. Despite that, they have not quite clicked out of the gate. Michigan currently ranks No. 77 in total offense with an output of 396 yards per game. On paper that looks good, but when you see teams like Illinois and Michigan State ahead of that, you begin to rethink it.
Still, the Wolverines have had an extra week to prepare for this contest, and Patterson should have some new wrinkles to work with. If you want to slow this Michigan offense down, you have to take away one dimension of Shea Patterson. If you can take one side of his game away, he’s a completely different quarterback.
Keeping Patterson in the pocket and making him throw is probably your best bet. The Wolverines killed Wisconsin with RPO’s last year, and they’ll look to do that again in 2019. In yesterday’s presser, defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk talked about how important it will be to come out and stop the run both from guys in the backfield, and from Patterson. If you want to win this game, plays like the one below cannot happen.
Take advantage of the home atmosphere
Over the last ten meetings, Michigan and Wisconsin have split the wins 5-5. However, the Badgers have won the last four meetings at Camp Randall Stadium. It’s a tough place to play, and it should be no different come this Saturday. In addition to the great record at home for the Badgers, the Wolverines tend to struggle on the road. That is even more magnified against ranked teams, as the Wolverines are 1-18 against ranked teams on the road since 2006.
And because I'm all rainbows and butterflies tonight:— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) September 16, 2019
Michigan has lost its last four games in Madison (2005, 2007, 2009, 2017). Michigan hasn't beaten Wisconsin on the road since 2001.
They snapped a 17 game streak last year on the road against Michigan State, but started a new one by getting their doors blown off at Ohio State. If it’s known that a program struggles to win away from home, it’s imperative that the Badgers take advantage of being in their home stadium. Home field advantage is the most prevalent in college football, and Wisconsin will have to make the most of it.
That not only starts with the players, but also with the fans. So here’s my call to you. I know its an 11 a.m. game, but i’m begging you to get to your seat by 10:59. If you need a certain number of beers in you, wake up earlier or drink faster. Either way, get there by kickoff. Looking especially at you students. Get there, get loud, wear the right color and lets help the Badgers get a W.