The No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers (2-0 overall) looked great on Saturday night, beating a disinterested Michigan Wolverines (1-3 overall) team 49-11 in a game that was somehow not even as close as that score suggests.
As usual, we rounded up some of our writers, sat them at a virtual table and had them answer the most pressing questions of the weekend. Belz, J.J., Ryan and Rock have thoughts on Saturday’s game and the college football world at large!
Which true freshman was most impressive to you on Saturday night, Chimere Dike, Jalen Berger or Nick Herbig?
Belz: I’m on team Berger for this one. We had seen Dike and Herbig in the opener against Illinois, and they both had stellar games this week, however the emergence of Berger was the most notable of the bunch for me. Wisconsin will likely continue to deploy a committee approach to the running back room, and Berger will probably factor into that more moving forward after his 100 all-purpose yards performance.
JJ: Bumping the Berger hype. Nearly every time he touched the ball he was able to find a crease and even when he was met with contact he would fall forward for a couple extra yards. Pretty rare to see a freshman look as confident as he did seeing a role that had expanded so rapidly from last game. Excited to see some more of him and how he factors into the running back committee going forward.
Ryan: Jalen Berger for sure. Toting the ball 15 times for 87 yards and a touchdown. He looked decisive when running the ball and looks like he could be a weapon to use out of the backfield in the passing game.
Rock: I think everyone on the offense had a big day, so I almost feel like I can’t single out anyone on that side. Thankfully, Herbig was excellent enough that made a huge impact on the defensive side of the ball, and was a major issue for Michigan all night.
What was your favorite part of Paul Chryst and Joe Rudolph’s game plan?
Belz: I liked the use of the jet sweep to slow down the flow of the Michigan defense.That really allowed the offensive line to go to work on inside runs, and it added an extra dimension to the offense horizontally.
JJ: It wasn’t flashy, but the commitment to repeatedly smashing the ball down Michigan’s throat in the second half via fullback dives was honestly one of the most effective methods of both running down the clock and repeatedly gaining chunk yardage I’ve seen in a while. I also thought the balance struck between both Watson and Berger in the backfield (with a Danny Davis III sweep thrown in every once in a while as well) was really well done.
Ryan: The use of jet sweeps, reverses and double reverses really had the Michigan defense on their heals all night and it’s just another way for Wisconsin to get the ball into the hands of their most dynamic weapons on the offense.
Rock: Using Mertz arm as an accurate weapon. Some of those touch passes let the backs catch the ball at speed and get a bunch of yards. That TD where he hit Barry’s grandson down the middle was stellar - high enough where only Jake could get the ball, and not a foot higher.
Could you have caught the Leo Chenal interception and scored? Keep in mind, in this scenario you are you and, uh, not a college football player.
Belz: No way. I am no longer able to run nearly as fast as I did in high school. I do want to see a 40-yard dash contest between John and Leo though, as they both had long runs that highlighted just how large they both are.
JJ: I’d say I’ve always had pretty reliable hands on the intramural field so I think I could pretty confidently chalk myself up to make the catch. Unfortunately, however, I don’t think there’s much of a shot that even at my fastest I’d be able to keep ahead of some of the best football players in the country *cough* even if their talent is clearly being squandered.
Ryan: Caught the ball? I like to think yes, but I wouldn’t have scored.
Rock: Absolutely not. I am notoriously uncoordinated, it takes a while to get to my top speed and I don’t have speed. I would have had a hard time running on the wet grass in my slippers. It’s very likely that I would have dropped my beverage in surprise. My best chance would be if the ball got stuck in my facemask and I wildly ran into the end zone trying to swat it away while Michigan fell over laughing.
Who gets your game balls on offense and defense for the Badgers?
Belz: On offense I’ll go with Berger, for a lot of the same reasons I listed earlier. On defense I will go with Leo Chenal. Not only did Chenal take advantage of that errant throw with the interception, but he also had a sack.
JJ: I’d give the game ball to the entire offensive line (is that allowed? Who cares, they deserve it). Mertz wasn’t the fulcrum of the offense today but still generally had a pretty comfortable time in the pocket when he did drop back, and they continually opened up holes for Berger and Watson to gash the Wolverine defense whenever the Badgers needed a big run most. On defense Leo Chenal gets my game ball, just for his presence on both the stat sheet (one interception, one sack) as well as the game as a whole.
Ryan: On offense, I have to go with Danny Davis. He was shaken up a couple of times throughout the game, but kept coming back and was very impressive carrying the ball. Sixty-five rushing yards from a wide receiver is unheard of. Defensively, Scott Nelson, who played in his first game since tearing his ACL and had an interception on the first play of the game and had a big tackle for loss.
Rock: I’ll say the offensive tackles. Michigan could not set an edge defensively, and they got their souls eaten on a lot of end-arounds because of it. Defensively, let’s get B1G on it: a 48 yard punt for a touchback (that Michigan immediately turned over), downed on Michigan’s 17, downed on Michigan’s 4. Vujnovich, you aren’t called on often but you’re putting in good work.
Which other Big Ten team impressed you the most this weekend?
Belz: Iowa. I liked that Kirk Ferentz was willing to twist the knife late in the game by taking unneeded timeouts and his team showed some life in back-to-back weeks.
JJ: Northwestern. It wasn’t a flashy or gaudy win, but you can’t afford any slip-ups if you want to assert yourself as a challenger in the B1G. They put in another solid showing on the road in West Lafayette, with the same stingy defense as always as well as an offense that looks far more dangerous than last years’.
Ryan: Indiana. The Hoosiers moved to 4-0 with a curb stomping of MSU, holding them under 200 total yards of offense. Indy has a HUGE game next weekend against Ohio State. We’ll find out next weekend, if they are for real.
Rock: Nebraska hanging on to their 27-6 halftime lead and sending Penn State to 0-4 was awesome. What’s great is that Penn State wanted that win more than Nebraska. The Huskers are just happy to be here and they’re going to let Scott Frost keep trying to figure it out, win or lose. Now preseason top-10 Penn State is suddenly trying to answer some really tough questions about James Franklin’s future with the program.
Assume Clemson, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Alabama make the CFP. What matchup would you like to see most in one of the other New Year’s Six games?
Belz: I would love to see Cincinnati and BYU play against one another. I think that would be a fun game and ultimately determine which non-P5 team was best this season.
JJ: Like everyone else has touched on Cincinnati against BYU would be super fun. But really I’m just a sucker for seeing new blood in these big games so Marshall, Coastal Carolina or even *sigh* Indiana would all be teams I’d be super interested in seeing play on New Years’.
Ryan: I have to agree with Belz. A Cincy/BYU matchup would be a fun one to see. Not to mention, those non-P5 bowl games are usually the best games each season.
Rock: I want to see Florida and BYU air it out on each other. I don’t always want to watch a 5 hour football game that doesn’t have OT, but give it a bowl game showcase piece and I am on board.