KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SITE: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.
SERIES: Michigan leads 49-13-1
RECORDS: Wisconsin 9-1, 5-1; Michigan 7-3, 3-3
POLLS: Wisconsin (6 AP, 5 USA Today)
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For Wisconsin: Follow Michigan State's plan. The Spartans forced Michigan QB Denard Robinson to throw, and it led to three interceptions (and just one TD and 215 yards) in 29 attempts. On offense, the Badgers want to keep the running game going so QB Scott Tolzien isn't forced to throw the ball.
-- For Michigan: Rein in Wisconsin's explosive offense. One of the best ways to do that is to keep the Michigan offense on the field, moving the chains and eating up the clock. The Wolverines have struggled on defense against good teams, so they don't want to see that unit put under duress again.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
-- What do you say after Wisconsin's offense provided 76 of the 83 points in last week's win over Indiana? The Badgers boast three terrific running backs in junior John Clay, sophomore Montee Ball and freshman James White. They have a Mackey Award semifinalist in TE Lance Kendricks. They have two and perhaps three linemen who will earn all-Big Ten honors. Where is there a void? Well, prior to last week, you might say the receivers hadn't achieved as much as expected. WR Nick Toon, expected to be the leader after posting 54 catches for 805 yards last year, missed four games with injury and didn't get his first TD until last week. He has 25 catches for 294 yards.
Wisconsin's steady defense has forced seven turnovers in the last two weeks. As players such as S Aaron Henry and DE Louis Nzegwu have matured, the Badgers have enough playmakers to start to force teams to switch to their weakness. When Wisconsin beat Ohio State, it forced QB Terrelle Pryor to try to win with his arm. Purdue and Indiana already were one-dimensional to begin with, so the Badgers had an easier time with them. Wisconsin's numbers show the defense fourth in the Big Ten and 25th nationally in rushing defense (125.1 ypg).
The Wolverines like what they are seeing from RB Vincent Smith, who had a long road back to health after tearing his ACL against Ohio State last year. With him a reliable option in the backfield, it takes some of the pressure off QB Denard Robinson, who has been getting banged up while carrying too much of the offensive load.
After taking the brunt of the criticism when this team has struggled, the Michigan defense had a performance to brag about last week against Purdue when it did not allow an offensive touchdown. Wisconsin will flex its rushing muscle, and the Wolverines will have to throw a few roadblocks in the Badgers' path if they want to be competitive in this game.
Badgers: The Badgers' football team is taking a cue from the basketball squad. The Badgers' basketball team led the nation in fewest turnovers last year. This fall, the football team shares the national lead with just seven turnovers in 10 games. The Badgers have a shot to break the record of 10 set in 1998. ... Wisconsin's basketball team led the nation in 2007-08 in scoring defense, in part because the Badgers fouled so infrequently that opponents tried just 13 free throws per game. This fall, the football team leads the nation with just 3.1 penalties per game. The Badgers also rank third with just 30.8 penalty yards per game. ... When Wisconsin knocked off top-ranked Ohio State on Oct. 16 to trigger the team's rise to the top of the Big Ten charts, the Badgers didn't even find a way to get sophomore RB Montee Ball into the game. That's how far removed he was from the program's hot list. ... But since freshman James White went down in the Iowa game the following week and junior John Clay the week after, Ball has become the man. In the last nine quarters, Ball has 46 carries, 313 yards and six TDs. ... Senior TE Lance Kendricks is one of eight semifinalists for the John Mackey Award. Kendricks, a true dual threat who blocks and catches with equal acumen, doesn't have huge numbers due to an ankle injury that has limited him for most of the past month, but he still leads Wisconsin with 31 catches for 473 yards and four TDs. ... DE J.J. Watt (Chuck Bednarik) and RB John Clay (Doak Walker) also are semifinalists to win player of the year awards at their respective positions.
Wolverines: QB Denard Robinson needs just 78 yards to set the NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Robinson is second in the nation in total offense with 340.7 ypg. Robinson left the recent triple-overtime game against Illinois in the fourth quarter with concussion-like symptoms, but he returned last week to start the game against Purdue. ... CB James Rogers had two interceptions in last week's win at Purdue. That times him for the team lead in pics with FS Cameron Gordon and LB Jonas Mouton, all with two each. ... Gordon had two fumble recoveries against Purdue, and he returned one of them 58 yards for a touchdown. ... LT Taylor Lewan made his Michigan debut in a goal-line situation against Notre Dame, then won the starting job in late September. He has started there every game since. ... RT Perry Dorrestein, who started the first seven games of the season, then missed the Penn State and Illinois games due to injury, returned to the lineup last week against Purdue. ... OL John Ferrara missed four games in the first half of the season with a hand injury, but he is back playing on the field-goal and extra-point protection units.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
TB Montee Ball -- In each of the past two weeks, the hard-running sophomore has set career-highs for rushing yards. Ball went for 167 yards and a career-high three scores in last week's win over Indiana. Though he has handled the most carries in the last two games, Michigan can't forget that Ball can catch the ball. He contributed five catches against Iowa and four against Arizona State.
DE J.J. Watt -- The redshirt junior played just 34 snaps in last week's blowout of Indiana, but he found the time to record two tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries. He ranks fourth in the nation with 18 TFLs, but he failed to get a sack for the first time in six weeks. In his spare time, Watt helped to convince his younger brother, Derek, to switch from his commitment to Northwestern to commit to Wisconsin.
QB Scott Tolzien -- Perhaps this statistical comparison best explains Tolzien's role for the Badgers. While he ranks eighth nationally in passer efficiency (largely due to the fact he owns the country's second-best completion percentage at 72.5), he ranks just 77th nationally with 184.9 total yards per game. Wisconsin doesn't need him to throw bombs and stretch defenses. It needs him to make the right reads and keep the chains moving.
QB Denard Robinson -- Early in the 10th game of the year, Robinson set the Michigan single-season record for total offense. He has 3,407 yards of offense this season, breaking John Navarre's old mark of 3,240 yards, set in 2003.
WR Roy Roundtree -- With his 246 receiving yards against Illinois, Roundtree broke the oldest single-game record in school history, the 1966 mark of 197 receiving yards set by Jack Clancy against Oregon State.
QB Tate Forcier -- Last year's starter, Forcier has settled into the backup role behind Denard Robinson. Forcier's best work came in the triple-overtime win against Illinois when he completed 12 of 19 passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns and also ran seven times for 33 yards.
DE Craig Roh -- After starting the first eight games of the season at the hybrid linebacker position, Roh was moved to defensive end for the past two games. He is tied for third on the team with 5.5 tackles for loss.
RB John Clay (knee, probable to questionable), C Peter Konz (ankle, questionable).
LB Jonas Mouton (chest, questionable), DT Mike Martin (ankles, questionable), OT Taylor Lewan (concussion, questionable)
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 35-24
TSX Files: U-M/Wisconsin Preview, Prediction
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