Wisconsin-Northwestern Preview

The Badgers and Wildcats kick things off at 11:02 a.m. at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill.

Buckeyes offense v

Wildcats offense v. Badgers defense

Northwestern projected startersWisconsin projected starters
QB Brett Basanez (So.6-2, 200) DE Darius Jones (Jr. 6-3, 268)
WR Kunle Patrick (Sr. 6-0, 215) DT Anttaj Hawthorne (Jr. 6-3, 300)
WR Mark Philmore (So. 5-10, 185)DT Jason Jefferson (Jr. 6-3, 307)
WR Roger Jordan (Sr. 6-3, 215) DE Jonathan Welsh (Jr. 6-4, 228)
RB Jason Wright (Sr. 5-10, 215) LB Kareem Timbers (Jr. 6-3, 209)
LT Trai Essex (Jr. 6-4, 310) LB Jeff Mack (Sr. 6-0, 244)
LG Ikechuku Ndukwe (Jr. 6-5, 315) LB Alex Lewis (Sr. 6-1, 237)
C Trevor Rees (Fr. 6-2, 280) CB Scott Starks (Jr. 5-10, 168)
RG Matt Ulrich (Jr. 6-2, 310) SS Ryan Aiello (Sr. 6-1, 196)
RT Zach Strief (So.6-7, 335) FS Jim Leonhard (Jr. 5-8, 183)
TE Ray Bogenrief (Sr. 6-3, 260) CB Levonne Rowan (So. 6-1, 178)

Key reserves

Northwestern: RB Noah Herron (Jr. 5-11, 235), WR Brandon Horn (So. 6-1, 215), QB Alexander Webb (Fr. 6-0, 195), RB Terrell Jordan (So. 5-10, 195), TE Gilles Lezi (Sr. 6-0, 240)

Wisconsin: LB LaMarr Watkins (So. 6-1, 216), DE Joe Monty (Fr. 6-2, 246), DT/DE Nick Cochart (Sr. 6-1, 267), DT Kalvin Barrett (Jr. 6-2, 316), LB Chris Catalano (Jr. 6-1, 206), LB Elliot Goode (So. 6-2, 240), LB Kyle McCorison (Sr. 6-0, 242), DT Lyle Maiava (So. 6-2, 294).

When the Wildcats have the ball…

The Jason Wright show will be on-air from Evanston. Perhaps no single player is more important to their team than Wright is to Northwestern. Wright has rushed for 720 yards and caught 11 passes for 101 yards in seven games this season. Until this week he was also the team's primary kick returner, and had taken seven kickoffs for 144 yards. Wright has run for 13 touchdowns this season. The rest of Northwestern's team has scored a total of seven.

Northwestern still likes to spread the field, but often in the same manner that Wisconsin does, with multiple receiver sets but also some two halfback, three-receiver looks. The Wildcats spread is not employed with a ball-control, Purdue-style passing game in mind, nor will the team take as many shots downfield as Wisconsin does in a typical game. Northwestern spreads people out to open up running lanes for Wright and reserves Noah Herron and Terrell Jordan. The Wildcats game plan, if not their formations, are quite similar to what West Virginia employs.

The running game is the Wildcats obvious bread-and-butter. Northwestern is averaging 168.9 yards per game on the ground and runs 57 percent of the time. More telling, of the team's 20 touchdowns, 18 have come on the ground.

Purdue, of course, came into Camp Randall last week with a highly-touted running game and proceeded to pass incessantly against an overmatched Wisconsin pass defense. The Badgers, meanwhile, have proven very stout versus the run. Despite the Badgers' frequent struggles to stop well-tuned passing games, though, expect Northwestern to stick to the run. Against Ohio State earlier this season, the Wildcats ran 40 times for 121 yards and only attempted 25 passes, for a mere 64 yards.

There is talent in Northwestern's passing game, though, headlined by quarterback Brett Basanez and receiver Kunle Patrick. Basanez is not enjoying nearly same level of success he had last season, but he has thrown for a respectable 1,207 yards. The sophomore, though, has also thrown seven interceptions and only two touchdowns. There is some mild clamoring for highly-touted redshirt freshman Alexander Webb to take over.

Patrick has only 195 yards receiving this season, but it goes without saying that he will be a part of the action-he has caught a pass in 41 consecutive games. Northwestern's leading receiver is Roger Jordan with 22 catches for 319 yards. A player to watch is sophomore Brandon Horn, who has only caught four passes. Those receptions, though, have gone for 176 yards.

Wisconsin is looking to rebound from a troublesome defensive performance against Purdue. The Badgers match up far better this week but will be facing a different style running attack then the ones they have had success against to this point. Alex Lewis would appear to have cemented a spot as a defensive end in the nickel package with his performance last week; it will be interesting to see how often he is used in that role Saturday.

Badgers offense v. Wildcats defense

Wisconsin projected startersNorthwestern projected starters
QB Matt Schabert (Jr. 6-2, 203) DE Loren Howard (So. 6-4, 280)
TB Anthony Davis (Jr. 5-8, 191)DT Colby Clark (Jr. 6-2, 290)
FB Matt Bernstein (So. 6-2, 273) DT Luis Castillo (Jr. 6-4, 305)
WR Lee Evans (Sr. 5-11, 202) DE Barry Cofield (So. 6-5, 300)
WR B. Williams (So. 5-11, 170) LB John Pickens (Jr. 6-2, 245)
LT Morgan Davis (Jr. 6-5, 326) LB Pat Durr (Sr. 6-1, 230)
LG Dan Buenning (Jr. 6-4, 298) LB Tim McGarigle (So. 6-1, 225)
C Donovan Raiola (So. 6-3, 290) CB Jeff Backes (So. 5-9, 190)
RG J. Clinkscale (Jr. 6-3, 308) S Torri Stuckey (Sr. 5-11, 210)
RT Mike Lorenz (So. 6-5, 313) S Dominique Price (Jr. 6-0, 210)
TE Tony Paciotti (Jr. 6-4, 263) CB Marvin Ward (Jr. 5-11, 205)

Key reserves

Wisconsin: TB Dwayne Smith (So. 5-11, 225), TB Booker Stanley (Fr. 5-10, 207), WR/TE Owen Daniels (So. 6-3, 213), WR Jonathan Orr (So. 6-3, 190), WR Darrin Charles (Jr. 6-6, 210), TE Jason Pociask (So. 6-3, 250), WR Ernest Mason (Fr. 5-11, 180), WR Brandon White (So. 6-3, 182), OT/TE Joe Thomas (Fr. 6-8, 280), QB John Stocco (Fr. 6-2, 195).

Northwestern: LB Braden Jones (So. 6-2, 250), S Bryan Heinz (Fr. 6-1, 205), S Louis Ayeni (Sr. 5-11, 215), DE David Thompson (So. 6-2, 265), DT Ryan Keenan (Fr. 6-4, 286), LB Nick Roach (Fr. 6-2, 220), LB Doug Szymul (Sr. 6-0, 230), DE DeMaris Wilson (So. 6-4, 280), CB Marquis Cole (So. 5-9, 185).

When the Badgers have the ball…

The only thing that will change this week is that No. 16 is under center instead of No. 19. Wisconsin will certainly run the ball. Northwestern's defense has a lot of size up front and one very good linebacker in Pat Durr, but the Wildcats are very young and their size has not equated to much push along the line. Northwestern has struggled mightily against the run, giving up 185.7 yards per game, and 4.5 yards per carry. The Wildcats, though, have played against some of the nation's best running offenses, including Minnesota and Air Force. Still, this looks like a mismatch.

Northwestern, though, has also struggled to slow down opponents' passing games, yielding 15.1 yards per reception. Wisconsin's receivers, meanwhile, average 16.7 yards per catch. This could be a game filled with big plays.

All eyes, of course, will be on Matt Schabert, who is making his first start since he was a high school senior four years ago. Schabert, though, is a veteran in Wisconsin's system and has received very important playing time in the Badgers pressure-packed contests with Ohio State and Purdue. Schabert can make all the necessary throws and he has plenty of weapons at his disposal. Wisconsin's offense should have a far better day than last week.

Special Teams matchup

Wisconsin specialistsNorthwestern specialists
P R.J. Morse (Jr. 6-1, 246) Brian Huffman (Jr. 6-1, 225)
PK Mike Allen (Jr. 6-2, 186)Slade Larscheid (Fr. 6-1, 200)
KO Scott Campbell (Sr. 6-0, 245)Huffman
KR B. Williams (So. 5-11, 170) Derrell Jenkins (So. 6-1, 205)
PR Jim Leonhard (Jr. 5-8, 183)Mark Philmore (So. 5-10, 185)
LS Matt Katula (Jr. 6-6, 282) Chris Horton (So. 6-2, 250)
H Matt Schabert (Jr. 6-2, 203) Eric Batis (So. 6-1, 200)

There were plenty of silver linings in Wisconsin's spirited performance during last week's 26-23 loss to Purdue, none bigger than the team's play on special teams. There was, of course, Jim Leonhard's punt return for touchdown to tie the game at 23-23. Leonhard has to be considered one of the most dangerous weapons on the field. In addition, Wisconsin's kick and punt coverage units played exceptionally well against some very good Boilermaker returners.

Northwestern changed up its return game substantially this week, removing Jason Wright from kick returns and Jeff Backes from punt returns. In their place a pair of sophomores, Derrell Jenkins and Terrell Jordan, will handle kick return duties, and another sophomore, Mark Philmore, will return punts. Philmore has returned two punts this season, for 60 and seven yards, respectively.

Brian Huffman is a solid punter, but, ominously for the Wildcats, he has had two blocked this season. Could Alex Lewis get a third punt block this week?

The Badgers will also have to be alert as well-Northwestern has blocked three kicks this season.

Wildcat kicker Slade Larscheid has struggled, hitting just two-of-six field goal attempts.

BadgerNation.com forecast

Wisconsin has struggled to put teams away this season and is coming off two highly emotion games. Northwestern, meanwhile, has been a thorn in the Badgers side during recent meetings. Wisconsin has a very good shot at a Big Ten title and with three very good teams waiting after the bye, the Badgers needs to remain focused on the task at had.

Wisconsin should take care of business in Evanston. Expect Matt Schabert to enjoy his homecoming and for Anthony Davis, Lee Evans and the rest of Wisconsin's playmakers to bust loose against an overmatched Northwestern squad. On homecoming, the Wildcats will play with a lot of pride and may hang around for a while, but this ought to be a convincing UW victory in the end.

Prediction: Wisconsin 38, Northwestern 17


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