Keys to the Game

Badgermaniac examines his "Keys to the Game" for Saturday's tilt between the Wisconsin Badgers and Michigan Wolverines.

1. Mike Hart vs. Badger Front Seven

It all starts and ends here. The Badgers have been run on and Hart, despite his injuries, has been the most productive back in the league. With the loss of Jason Chapman inside and the Badgers suffering a serious lack of depth, the Badger rushing defense must be questioned. Look for Michigan to run early and often and try to set up the play-action off the run. I think 140 yards is the cutoff point for a Badger victory.

2. Adrian Arrington vs. Aaron Henry

Mario Manninghamn and Jack Ikegwuonu are a push on one side, but Arrington vs. the true freshman Aaron Henry, replacing the injured Allen Langford, on the other is a matchup Michigan will try to exploit. How will the freshman hold up over the course of a game against a talented wideout?

3. Ditto

Take key number one and flip it. Michigan's passing defense has been solid all year and I don't believe that Wisconsin can afford to be one dimensional anyway (even though I expect Michigan to struggle matching up with Beckum). On the day that Ron Dayne's number will be retired, the Badger running game stands front and center. Michigan has been vulnerable on the ground and Wisconsin needs to pound the ball. While Zach Brown will get the start, Lance Smith will need to hit some big plays, and don't be stunned if P.J. Hill gives it a go.

4. Red Zone Defense

I hate to sound like a broken record but Wisconsin has had a tough time all year getting stops in the red zone, ranking last in the Big Ten. Simply put, the Badgers need to get some key stops at key times. Maybe the emotions of the final home game will produce some better results.

5. Gimmie that Damn Ball!

Michigan has a +7 turnover margin while Wisconsin is –5 for the year. These teams are very very similar on paper, but this one sticks out as a big difference. It aint' brain surgery, but Wisconsin needs to win the turnover battle.

Badgermaniac's Prediction

I realize the analysis this week is perhaps the most pedestrian of the season. That is because I believe this game comes down to one main simple factor: who runs the ball best? Unfortunately, with the Badger defense dinged up, I just don't see them stopping Hart for four quarters. I would expect the game to go much like the OSU game last week. Despite the pleas over the years from Michigan fans for Carr to open up the offense, I believe his conservative nature will really help them on Saturday. As much as I respect Henne, I actually would welcome a passing centered attack, but I just don't see it. I think the game will be close for three quarters before Michigan takes control and wins going away. Prediction: Michigan 28-Wisconsin 20.

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