Badgermaniac's Keys to the Game

Badgermaniac takes his weekly look at this week's matchup: Wisconsin vs. the Michigan Wolverines.

1. Strength vs. Strength

Wisconsin's offensive strength is obviously its offensive line and a battering ground game. While Michigan has struggled this year, their rushing defense has been very good, allowing just 65 yards per game on the ground. Can the Badgers hammer Michigan into submission? I doubt it. Look for a fairly balanced offensive attack from Wisconsin, though it will still need to start with the run.

2. The Big House

Whereas Wisconsin has had success against the other traditional powers Ohio State and Penn State, they have simply not been able to get over Michigan-hump on a consistent basis. They have not beaten Michigan in Michigan since 1994 (0-4), and fans of the 80's Badgers recall struggles against Michigan even when Wisconsin was a superior team. While they are down, they still have enough athletes on the team to make this a very tough game.

3. Michigan Big Plays

Simply stated, the Wolverine offense is bad. They are last in total offense, last in rushing, and pass for just 166 yards per game. Against a solid Wisconsin defense, they should struggle to consistently move the ball as Wisconsin's defense should be well-geared in stopping Rich Rodriguez's spread option. Therefore, the Badgers must limit Michigan's explosive plays (which was somewhat of a problem against Fresno).

4. Terrance Taylor vs. John Moffitt

As noted in Key #1, the Badgers will need to maintain a semblance of a run game against a solid Michigan front seven, headed by disruptive nose-tackle Terrance Taylor. Wisconsin needs to be able to run the ball up the middle, so watch the interior of the Badger line matched up against Taylor (#67).

5. Continued Return to Health

While having a bye week this early in the season is considered to be less than ideal, the extra week off should assist Badgers such as Travis Beckum or Jonathan Casillas in returning to full strength. While the health of John Clay may be in doubt and Aaron Henry looks to be out for the season, the rest of the team should be as healthy as they have been all year.

Badgermaniac's Prediction

I think the key here is being the tortoise. The Badgers need to get off to a solid start and be methodical and consistent: no turnovers, move the ball, play field position, and take advantage of opportunities. The Michigan crowd can get out of the game early if the Badgers slowly establish dominance. Still, this is the Big Ten and this is still Michigan, and I expect a four quarter battle. I think Wisconsin wins, but it isn't easy: 21-17.

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