The No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers (2-0) open up their B1G season with a visit from the No. 11 Michigan Wolverines (2-0) this Saturday at 11 a.m. CT on FOX. As you may know, Michigan hasn’t beaten Wisconsin in Madison since 2001, a winning streak of four straight games for the Badgers.
The Badgers currently lead the nation in points allowed per game with 0.0, but the Wolverines will be a noticeable step up in competition (no offense USF and CMU) on both sides of the ball. Also, just because I think it’s worth noting: the Badgers also lead the nation in rushing defense, passing defense, total defense and passing efficiency defense. Can’t imagine there will be too many other times we can say that.
Trevor Woods of our SB Nation B1G cousins Maize n Brew is here to give us the lowdown on what to expect when the Michigan Men come to Madison.
1) Any key injuries of note? Is Jon Runyan going to play? How is Shea Patterson looking?
Runyan is going to play and Patterson said he is fully healed from his oblique injury that definitely hindered him the first two games. The injury of note is wideout Donovan Peoples-Jones, arguably Michigan’s best WR, who hasn’t played yet this season. DPJ has practiced this week, it seems like he’s trending in the right direction. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s playing, but if this was the NFL he’d certainly be graded as “questionable”.
2) Who are the Michigan players to look out for on the offensive side of the ball?
True freshman running back Zach Charbonnet has been absolutely lights out through two weeks, even totaling a whooping 33 carries against Army! Charbonnet looks like a complete back who can contribute in pass protection, as a pass catcher and as a bell-cow back. Expect to see Charbonnet early and often against Wisconsin.
Michigan also has a trio of highly talented pass catchers and are as deep at the position as they’ve been in a long time with the likes of Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and Tarik Black all able to make big time plays.
3) Same question, but on the defensive side of the ball?
Michigan lost more than a few great players on the D from last season, including Devin Bush, Rashan Gary, Chase Winovich and David Long. With the departures, other players have stepped up.
Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson has shown he’s a warrior and leader along the defensive front with above average pass rushing capabilities, the same goes for Josh Uche at OLB. Safety Josh Metellus has been flying all over the field and has taken his game to another level so far this season, and VIPER Jordan Glasgow might be the most underrated player on the D.
Michigan’s defense looks very good as a whole but their secondary wasn’t tested much against run super-heavy Army, so there isn’t a big enough sample size to indicate how they’re trending at the moment.
In short, Michigan’s defense looks about as good as it has in prior seasons under Don Brown, the only question is will the unit allow another beatdown like the one they suffered against Ohio State last season?
4) What sort of schemes will the offense and defense be running?
Michigan has a new scheme on offense that will look a lot different than what Wisconsin has seen in prior seasons under Harbaugh. New offensive coordinator Josh Gattis has installed a no-huddle, up-tempo scheme that features an abundance of RPO looks and shotgun formations.
The offense won’t be abandoning the run game by any means, but there’s going to be more passing with Gattis calling the plays. Gattis also has promised to get his playmakers in advantageous situations, calling his offense “speed in space”.
Defensively, it’s business as usual with defensive coordinator Don Brown. The Michigan defense will be aggressive, play man coverage, and blitz a bunch. Michigan plays a lot of cover one, and even some cover zero. Michigan isn’t a ‘bend but don’t break’ defense, they try to punch their opponent in the mouth and leave themselves a bit vulnerable on the back end if they don’t land their haymaker.
5) Who are you worried about on the Badgers (both sides of the ball)?
Offense: Jack Coan, who’s been steady this season, the great Mr. Jonathan Taylor, and wideout Quintez Cephus who is dynamic and dangerous.
Defense: Zack Baun is the one I’m keeping an eye on. His ability off the edge, getting pressure on opposing QBs is something to behold and Michigan will need to contain him otherwise we could see another Shea Patterson fumble this week.
6) How are Wolverines fans feeling after the closer than expected win over Army? Did the bye week get people to step back from the ledge?
I’d say they’ve stepped off the ledge at this point and realize how important of a game is ahead at Wisconsin. However, the fans are concerned with the offense sputtering a bit and Shea Patterson having up and down performances with accuracy, progressions and read-option decisions.
If you went on Twitter after the game, you would have thought Michigan lost against Army, but the criticisms haven’t really been thrown at the Michigan defense, it’s pretty much all been about the Wolverines O.
Michigan fans are just anxious for a Big Ten Championship (at the very least) and old wounds haven’t healed, so any time they see the same troubling issues spring up, they get vocal in their dismay. 10-3 seasons don’t cut it in Ann Arbor.
7) What are your predictions for the game? Who will stand out and what will the final score be?
This is a tough one. I could see Wisconsin winning. I can see them licking their chops right now after an impressive first two games of the season and a Heisman Trophy caliber running back on the squad, but I think the negative talk about Michigan and the high praise for Wisconsin may be a bit overblown this early in the season and things are about to even out in that regard.
A year ago it felt like Michigan was the underdog against Wisconsin, and this year is no different, albeit Michigan is the away team this season. I think Michigan will be able to pressure Coan enough to net a couple turnovers and not allow Taylor to have a great game.
Along with that, I expect Michigan’s offense to look better with a bye week preceding this tilt and they’ll have their best game yet. A final score prediction? 38-17 Michigan, but this really could go either way and I wish you fine folks well.
Shoutout to Trevor, and the whole crew over at Maize n Brew, for being fun to banter with this week.