Preview: In the Memory Bank

Last season is in the past, which is a message Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema and its seniors have preached since the 2009 season started. When the Badgers host Michigan on Senior Day, however, members of Wisconsin certainly haven't forgotten the last season's meltdown in Michigan.

MADISON - There's a pink elephant in the offices of the Wisconsin football program. They don't want to acknowledge it, but consider the Wisconsin's implosion in Ann Arbor last season as one of the lower points in a series of low points.

"When I think of Michigan, I think of that loss from last year," senior defensive end O'Brien Schofield said. "That eats me up so much."

Schofield won't be the only one looking to take a year's worth of pain, frustration and anger on Michigan this Saturday in the home finale at Camp Randall.

There wasn't much for Michigan to cheer about in 2008, as the Wolverines, in the first year under head coach Rich Rodriguez, experienced a 3-9 mark, their first losing season in 40 years. The bright point was Michigan overcoming a 19-0 halftime deficit, getting booed into the locker room, and pulling off a stunning 27-25 victory in its conference opener. Against who? Of course, Wisconsin.

"It was terrible, like a funeral service," junior safety Jay Valai said. "We let them off the hook in the first half and it came back to bite us."

The Wolverines, who committed five turnovers and managed just 24 yards on 21 plays in the first half, watched Wisconsin go 4-of-5 on field goals, commit two turnovers, drop four passes and score only one touchdown on seven visits to Michigan's side of the field in the first 30 minutes.

Wisconsin felt its missed chances in a fourth quarter where Michigan out scored UW 20-6, including scoring 13 points in three seconds that effectively ended UW's game and season, sending UW on a four-game losing streak it never recovered from.

"It was embarrassing," said senior captain Chris Maragos, as UW offense played without tight ends Garrett Graham for the whole game and Travis Beckum until the last two series, including a two-point conversion where he lined up improperly and wiped out the successful conversion. "Things weren't the same after that."

No.22 Wisconsin (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) has shown that it is a different team since last season, while things aren't much different for Michigan (5-5, 1-5 Big Ten).

After starting the season 4-0, including a victory over No.18 Notre Dame, the Wolverines have lost 5 of 6, including losing to Purdue, 38-36, at home for the first time since 1966.

Michigan's only victory in that time frame was a 63-6 over FCS Delaware State, meaning the Wolverines haven't beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent since Sept. 26.

The Wolverines lead the Big Ten Conference in scoring (32.0 ppg) and rushing (208.3 ypg), but are 106th nationally in turnover margin (22 turnovers lost, 13 gained).

"We have made progress offensively," said Rodriguez, who is 8-14 in two seasons as Michigan's coach, including 3-11 in the Big Ten. "We expected to make some because we had some guys coming back. The X-factor was quarterback. We didn't know how good our young guys would step in, and that's the key position. We've been a little inconsistent in some of our Big Ten games, but there have been some pretty good moments."

The good moments, at points, have come from its freshman quarterback Tate Forcier. Once courted by Wisconsin, Forcier's numbers are decent for a freshman - 1,636 passing yards and 10 TDs, 246 rushing yards and three TDs – and he has led comeback wins over Notre Dame and Indiana, but he's thrown five of the team's 10 interceptions and tweaked his knee in the Purdue lost.

The same goes for senior running back Brandon Minor, who re-aggravated a high ankle sprain and suffered a shoulder injury after running for a season-high 154 yards and three touchdowns against Purdue.

The defense has just as many question marks under former Syracuse head coach and first-year coordinator Greg Robinson, Michigan's fourth defensive coordinator in four years. In the second halves of the last three games, the Wolverines have been outscored 75-12, and watched Purdue quarterback Joey Elliott pass for 367 yards and two touchdowns against Michigan last week, one week removed from his worst starting performance of his career against Wisconsin.

Senior defensive end Brandon Graham is second in the Big Ten in tackles for loss this season with 17 and junior cornerback Donovan Warren has four interceptions, but there is still a lot of youth.

"When you six, seven or sometimes eight guys playing for the first time, it makes a little bit more challenging," Rodriguez said, who is hoping to avoid Michigan's first back-to-back losing seasons since the early 1960s. "We just have to make sure we know what our problems are, fix them as quickly as we can without sacrificing for the future. We got to make sure we are building the program the right way so when we get it right, it stays right."

After last season, the Badgers are hoping the road to recovery is still a year away.

"This game has really been circled on my list," Schofield said. "It's Senior Day. I'm going to be extra jacked up. I'm going to make sure our guys are prepared and ready to go out there and play four quarters of football."

Michigan (5-5, 1-5 Big Ten) vs. No.20/21 Wisconsin (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, November 14 at 11 a.m. CT

Stadium – Camp Randall Stadium (80,321 / FieldTurf)

Television - Big Ten Network (Wayne Larrivee, Chris Martin and Charissa Thompson)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Michigan leads 49-12-1 (UM leads 21-5-1 in Madison)

Last Meeting - Michigan won, 27-25, on Sept. 27, 2008 in Ann Arbor

Wisconsin Notes:

Saturday is Senior Day for Wisconsin as 22 members of the football team will be honored in a pre-game ceremony. The list consists of 18 players (Dan Cascone, Nate Emanuel, Garrett Graham, Will Hartmann, Jordan Hein, Tyler Holland, Richard Kirtley, Chris Maragos, Jaevery McFadden, Prince Moody, Dan Moore, Erik Prather, O'Brien Schofield, Dustin Sherer, Jeff Stehle, T.J. Theus, Mickey Turner and Drew Woodward) as well as student assistant Terrance Jamison and student managers Tyler Guetschow, Tyler Cassini, and Ben Swanson.

According to the NCAA statistics, Wisconsin has played the 14th-toughest schedule in the country thus far and the toughest in the Big Ten. The two teams UW has lost to (Ohio State and Iowa) have a combined record of 17-3. Among teams with the 15 toughest schedules in the country, Wisconsin and Oregon have the best records (both are 7-2).

The Badgers currently lead the Big Ten in rushing offense and rushing defense in conference games. The only time in school history UW has led the league in both categories (conference games only) was in 1951. The last time any team led the league in both categories was Ohio State in 1996. Wisconsin is one of just five teams in the country to rank among the top 20 in both rushing offense and rushing defense (TCU, Florida, Alabama and Arizona are the others).

UW is tied for 13th in the country in turnovers gained with 22 (12 interceptions, 10 fumble recoveries). That is 2.44 turnovers per game which would be the best average since the 2002 team forced 35 turnovers in 14 games.

Five of Wisconsin's seven wins this year have been by eight points or less. The last time the Badgers won five games in that fashion was in 2000 when they were 5-3 in games decided by eight points or less. Last year UW was 3-3 in those games.

Michigan Notes:

The lone member of the U-M coaching staff with a Wisconsin connection is running backs mentor Fred Jackson, who in his 17th year at Michigan, coached five seasons under Dave McClain at Wisconsin (1982-86). He served as the Badgers' offensive coordinator, quarterbacks and wide receivers coach during his tenure.

The Wolverines have a 1-4 mark in the 11th month of the year under Rich Rodriguez. U-M has won 20 of their last 32 contests in November.

Rodriguez faced the Badgers twice during seven years at West Virginia. He lost a 34-17 affair in Madison during the 2002 season and opened the 2003 season with a 24-17 setback in Morgantown.

Prediction

Last year we thought was Wisconsin's prime chance to get a rare win over Michigan. The Wolverines had their worst team in over 40 years, were getting embarrassed by team after team and the Badgers, sitting at 3-0, were coming off a productive bye week after beating a ranked Fresno State team on the road. Boy, we were wrong. We were all wrong.

If last year was a prime chance, this year seems like a very good chance. Michigan is slightly better offensively and defensively, but the Badgers, as we know now, are tenfold better than what we saw in Ann Arbor last September.

Wisconsin has won the last two meetings at home and has never beaten the maize and blue three straight times in Madison. Michigan, who need to win one of its final two games to be bowl eligible, is an 8.5-point underdogs, but it really doesn't seem to matter to some of the players, especially with the big home match-up the Wolverines have next week.

"The main thing I want for our seniors is to beat Ohio State, which will result in going to a bowl game," junior cornerback Troy Woolfolk told the Free Press. "That's the main thing. Wisconsin, I want to beat them too. But Ohio State, we haven't beaten them in five years. That would be a good accomplishment. As bad as this season is going, it would be redeemed if we beat Ohio State."

As of Thursday, November 12, Michigan hasn't beat Ohio State in 2,182 days. Trap game? You betcha! Six of the last eight games between UM and UW have been decided by a touchdown or less, including four by three points or less. Not this one, UW by 10.

Wisconsin 27, Michigan 17

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 7-2

Against the Spread: 5-4


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