Wisconsin State Journal reporter Jason Galloway breaks down the matchup between the Wisconsin Badgers and Michigan Wolverines on Saturday night at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
WHEN THE BADGERS HAVE THE BALL
UW’s offense put together its most complete performance of the season last week against Nebraska, scoring 41 points and rushing for 370 yards. Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor rushed for 221 of those yards and scored three touchdowns. The Badgers could find that level of success much more difficult to reach at Michigan on Saturday.
The Wolverines rank No. 1 in the county in both total and passing defense, while the 96.5 yards per game they surrender on the ground ranks sixth nationally. UW ranks second among Power Five teams, behind only Georgia Tech, in rushing offense, and its success offensively may hinge on the performance of its touted offensive line, which will face a Michigan front seven loaded with talent. Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook has completed 64 percent of his passes and tossed seven touchdowns to two interceptions this year.
In seven games on the road over the past two seasons, Hornibrook’s completed 70 precent of his passes for 1,276 yards with 17 touchdowns and three interceptions. His pass efficiency rating of 174.9 in such games is higher than any other Power Five quarterback over that span.
EDGE | MICHIGAN
KEY STAT | BRINGING OUT THE WORST
Michigan has held five of six opponents to their lowest yardage total of the season.
WHEN THE WOLVERINES HAVE THE BALL
UW allowed 407 passing yards last week against Nebraska, the most its surrendered to any opponent in more than a decade. The Badgers haven’t been the same defensively since losing seven starters in the offseason, and they may also be severely shorthanded Saturday at Michigan. Two of their top three cornerbacks — Deron Harrell (head) and Caesar Williams (left leg) — are questionable to play, and starting safety Scott Nelson will miss the first half after being ejected for targeting in the third quarter against the Cornhuskers.
Top defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk (left leg) will miss Saturday night's game, and UW’s No. 1 outside linebacker, Andrew Van Ginkel, is still working his way back to full strength from an ankle injury he suffered against BYU four weeks ago.
Michigan, which finished 91st nationally in scoring offense last season, has scored more than 40 points in four of its last five games. Quarterback Shea Patterson, who transferred from Ole Miss in the offseason, has completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 1,187 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. Senior running back Karan Higdon’s 582 yards and five touchdowns have come on just 101 carries.
EDGE | MICHIGAN
KEY STAT | RUSHING OFFENSE
The Wolverines have gained more than 170 rushing yards in five straight contests and scored at least one rushing touchdown in every game this season.
Michigan kicker Quinn Nordin has made 27-of-33 field goals in his career, including eight of nine this season, while punter Will Hart is averaging 51.67 yards in a breakout season.
UW’s Rafael Gaglianone needs just one field goal to break Todd Gregoire’s career school record of 65. Badgers punter Anthony Lotti’s averaging just under 40 yards per punt.
Wolverine return men Donovan Peoples-Jones (punts) and Ambry Thomas (kickoffs) each have a touchdown this season.
EDGE | MICHIGAN
Jim Harbaugh boasts an impressive resume, including a Super Bowl appearance with the San Francisco 49ers, but continues his quest to bring Michigan back to the top of the Big Ten in his fourth year.
Paul Chryst has elevated UW’s program in his tenure, winning at least 10 games each of the past three seasons.
EDGE | EVEN
UW’s 15-1 in true road games under Chryst but Michigan has won six of its last seven games over the Badgers at Michigan Stadium and 18 of the last 20.
Only the winner of this game can hold hope of being in the College Football Playoff discussion later in the year.
EDGE | MICHIGAN
STATE JOURNAL’S PICK
UW’s bounced back from its loss to BYU with two straight conference wins, but Michigan possess the talent needed to contain the Badgers’ offense and take advantage of their potentially depleted defense.
WOLVERINES 27, BADGERS 14
THE NUMBER (UW)
17 | straight regular-season victories in Big Ten play for the Badgers, the nation’s longest active conference win streak and the longest run of consecutive league wins in school history.
THE NUMBER (Michigan)
20 | starters who returned from Michigan’s 2017 team, tied for the third-highest total of any FBS program.