On to this week's opponent in Northwestern.
This appears to greatly favor Wisconsin. After a the bye week, starters Jacob Pedersen, Dallas Lewallen and Melvin Gordon are all reported to be ready for the game. Return man Kenzel Doe is also ready to play after several weeks off, meaning UW should be very close to full strength.
The same cannot be said for Northwestern. Starting defensive tackle Sean McEvilly is not listed on NU's depth chart and is not expected to start. Additionally it appears that starting offensive lineman Adam DePietro is in doubt for the game. The Wildcats lack depth on the lines and as in past year, injuries have a greater effect on Northwestern than on other teams. Key matchup: Badgers left tackle Tyler Marz vs. NU right defensive end Dean Lowry. Lowry is a sophomore and with NU being thin on the line, UW should be able to run the ball in his direction.
Surprisingly we have yet to make Borland a key to any game in 2013. But with NU's read option/dual quarterback attack, the smart Badgers linebacker will be even more important than usual. Borland was all over the field against the Buckeyes and is by far the Badgers leading tackler with 46. In fact Borland has more solo tackles (26) than the next best tackler in the Badgers line up. The player in second place, Conor O'Neill, will get lots of work against NU's QBs, Trevor Siemian and starter Kain Colter. NU will score. Siemian and Kolter have QB ratings of 171 and 168, respectively, and Colter is the team's second-leading rusher. However, expected starting tailback Venric Mark has not been healthy and has yet to crack 100 yards for the season. The NU offense will stall on several efforts inside the Badgers 30.
3, Field Position
Badgers fans learned about OSU's punting game two weeks ago and NU has a very good punter as well. This is one of the few identifiable keys that seem to definitely favor NU. The return of Doe should help, though Jared Abbrederis fields punts well. NU's Brandon Williams is not in the same category as Ohio State's punter, but he is having a better year to date than UW's Drew Meyer. Also if the game is closer than expected, the kicking game will favor NU as placekicker Jeff Budzien is All-Big Ten caliber.
4, An Empty Tank
Listening to pregame interviews and reading various media reports, it was obvious that Northwestern had great emotional investment in the game against OSU. It should not be expected that NU will give up, but they might press if they get down early.
5,A dominate offense
As Badgers quarterback Joel Stave has thrived, connecting with Jared Abbrederis for record yardage against OSU, future defenses won't be able to fully commit against Wisconsin's running game. With Jacob Pedersen back, expect the Badgers to be very balanced on offense with a 400-yard performance.
Fearless Prediction: The more the match ups are studied, the easier this game is to call. UW wins 45-31.