Our “how you doing” feature is back for year three! Each week we at B5Q will review how each of Wisconsin’s opponents has fared heading into their contest with the Badgers.
On the heels of another tough loss, the Wisconsin Badgers (1-2 overall, 0-1 Big Ten) will welcome the Michigan Wolverines (4-0 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) to Camp Randall Stadium. The game represents the first road contest for Michigan and the third home game for the Badgers.
Let’s begin by taking a look at how the season has gone to this point for the Wolverines...
- Win vs. Western Michigan, 47-14
- Win vs. Washington, 31-10
- Win vs. Northern Illinois, 63-10
- Win vs. Rutgers, 20-13
Status of the offense:
Michigan is averaging 40 points per game through four games. While the passing game has not been anything special, their rushing attack is one of the best in the country so far this season. As a team, Michigan is averaging 290 yards per game on the ground, with the duo of Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins shouldering most of the load.
Only a sophomore, Blake Corum has played extremely well. A smaller back, he is is a fast but patient runner, and he has already amassed 475 yards (6.9 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns. The thunder to Corum’s lightning, senior Haskins is a bigger back at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds. A former linebacker early in his career, Haskins has been a steady performer for Michigan, and so far this season he is averaging 80 yards per game (5.3 yards per attempt) and has also reached the end zone six times.
The Wolverines have also been creative at times and gotten their receivers involved in the running game. Both A.J. Henning and Roman Wilson have hit big plays on the ground, with Henning taking one 74 yards for a score, and Wilson adding a 43-yard scamper.
A big reason for Michigan’s strong rushing capabilities this season is due to the play of the offensive line. After making an offseason coaching change, the Wolverines have been full speed ahead under new co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Sherrone Moore. Along with producing a strong run game, the Michigan offensive line has only given up one sack this season.
The lingering question for this Michigan offense is at quarterback, however. Junior Cade McNamara has been the guy all year long, but he has yet to be truly tested this season. Through four games he has thrown for 534 yards and three touchdowns with a 62% completion percentage. He was a highly-touted prospect coming out of high school, so it will be interesting to see how he performs on the road against a really good defense. So far Big Ten quarterbacks in general have not been great this season.
Out wide for Michigan, a season-ending injury to WR1 Ronnie Bell was an absolutely huge blow to the depth chart. Upperclassmen Corenelius Johnson and Daylen Baldwin have been the primary targets in his absence so far, and tight end Erick All has also been solid.
It is hard to read too much into Michigan’s quarterback play so far this season given how little the passing game has been needed to this point. However, I do believe that McNamara has talent around him to test the Badgers secondary.
Status of the defense:
Another area that is under new direction, Michigan’s defense is much better so far this season. After everyone torched Don Brown’s defense last season, Mike Macdonald was brought in to run the defense this year.
So far through four games Macdonald has Michigan only allowing a shade over 11 points per game, while Brown has taken over the reins as Arizona’s defensive coordinator and found similarly bad results.
Back to this year’s Michigan team, the Wolverines have only allowed five touchdowns this season. Statistically, that is significant, but this team isn’t doing anything overly flashy. They have only managed eight sacks and three turnovers against four offenses that are not great.
Individually, edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson is a stud and is their best player on the defense. He has personally recorded five and a half sacks, with at least one in each game this season. He will be THE player to monitor in Michigan’s front seven.
Linebacker Josh Ross leads the team in tackles by a wide margin with 29 and has also accounted for five quarterback hurries, while defensive back Daxton Hill is also a very talented player.
This Michigan defense has been much better than a year ago but has yet to really be tested against a good offense. Wisconsin has yet to do much of anything positive in terms of scoring offense either, so it will be interesting to see if Michigan’s streak of holding teams under 15 points can continue.
Michigan is in a much better place than they have been the past couple of seasons. The Wolverines entered the year with changes on both sides of the ball and so far it has worked. The competition level has not been great, and all of their games have been at home, but this is still a team that has a lot of positive momentum.
This is a huge opportunity for the Badgers to potentially right their wrongs and get back on track, but this will be a tough matchup on both sides of the ball. Wisconsin has beaten Michigan the past two seasons and six of the last nine meetings dating back to 2007. There is a ton on the line for both teams in this game, especially with FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff once again in town.