Wisconsin football is playing their best ball of the season and are riding high after a 52-3 victory over Rutgers. This week, the No. 18 Badgers return home to take on Northwestern who comes into the contest at 3-6 overall on the season.
It has been a tough year for the ‘Cats and Wisconsin brings in a host of advantages statistically, but they’ll still have to execute to avoid the vodoo of Northwestern. What do the Badgers need to do to come away with a win? Well, really, the same stuff they’ve been doing for the last five weeks.
Run the damn ball
This is basically a mantra for all Wisconsin fans everywhere so it is sort of a cop-out, but running the ball will be important in this football game. Traditionally, Northwestern is a very solid defensive team as a whole, but this year has been quite different for the Wildcats. Coming into this week Northwestern ranks among the worst teams in the nation when it comes to stopping the run, ranking No. 125 in rushing defense.
This team does not have a pulse when it comes to stopping opposing rushing attacks which is new for Northwestern. Against the pass, Northwestern has been pretty good, as they rank just No. 19 in passing yards allowed, but when you’re getting huge gains on the ground you really don’t have to throw it all that much.
That sounds great for Wisconsin as we know how much this group likes to run the damn ball. For the last five weeks, the Badgers have gone up against pretty solid run defenses and had a large amount of success. This week, they’ll be going against the worst run defense they’ve seen all season so the Badgers should be able to use that same gameplan and FEAST.
Both Chez Mellusi and Braelon Allen are a bit banged up, but it shouldn’t matter, whoever is getting the carries should have gaps to run through and plays to make. Keep it on the ground and blow this thing wide open.
Stop the damn run
On the other side of the football Wisconsin will be going up against a Northwestern unit that has struggled offensively all season long. The one minor bright spot for this group has been the run game, which ranks No. 77 in rushing offense. That isn’t good, but it’s better than the No. 103 ranked passing offense.
Northwestern’s only offense has been on the ground, and even that has been incredibly limited. If Wisconsin wants to win this game and blow it open I think you’ll see them take away the run (shocker), make Northwestern pass, and blitz like all hell.
Really, this should be a game that is very similar to last week defensively. Wisconsin should be able to do what it has done all season long on the defensive side of the football and should not worry too much about it differing any. At this point, it doesn’t really matter what the other team does well, Wisconsin will likely shut it down.
This Northwestern team just does not have a lot to go off of offensively, and this Badger defense just continues to play lights out week in and week out. Last week Rutgers got three (3) points on the board, and I would be surprised if Northwestern surpassed that.
Start early, put it away, blow them out
Last week we had a pleasant afternoon as the game was over by halftime and I personally would like to see that same thing here. This Northwestern team is bad and Wisconsin should blow this thing out of the water based on the advantages they have on both sides of the football. However, we’ve seen this program struggle with Northwestern for years now even when the talent disparity was there. In the last seven meetings, the average margin of victory has been just nine points, with Northwestern winning four of the last seven contests.
It’s fair to say that Pat Fitzgerald has had Paul Chryst’s number. He’s the only coach in the Big Ten West that he has a losing record to. Those are the facts! So, despite this Northwestern team being all sorts of bad, I won’t feel comfortable until it’s well in hand. We know this program has Voodoo Magic and has caused frustration before for Wisconsin, and I don’t want to take any chances here.
Personally, I think it would be nice to see Wisconsin completely blow the doors off of the Wildcats here and that starts early, making sure they cannot hang around. These two coaches have a lot of respect for each other but it would be nice this group take out some frustrations on the Wildcats here. Start out early, put it away, and blow this thing wide open. I liked seeing Grover Bortolotti last week, and I want to see him out there again this week.