GAME NOTES: The sixth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers and Michigan Wolverines will battle at "The Big House" this weekend in what is sure to be a hard-fought Big Ten Conference clash.
Wisconsin is 9-1 for the first time since 2006 and the seventh time in program history. Last weekend, The Badgers recorded a staggering 83-20 victory over Indiana, marking their most points ever scored in a Big Ten game and most overall since 1915.
"It was just kind of the way things happened," said Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema when asked of his team tried to get style points to influence the BCS standings. "I don't think Wisconsin will ever get accused of trying to be sexy or (get) style points."
With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, Wisconsin is 5-1 in Big Ten play, good for a three-way tie atop the standings with Ohio State and Michigan State. If the Badgers can knock off the Wolverines and best Northwestern at home on November 27th, the program would earn at least a share of the crown.
While Michigan owns a solid 7-3 overall record, the team is just 3-3 in Big Ten play. Fortunately, the last two outings have resulted in victory, including last weekend's 27-16 triumph over Purdue.
"If you look at the end result, it's a win on the road," said Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez after the game. "We're proud. It's a team win, and the offense at least came together at the end when we had the touchdown."
Michigan owns a 49-13-1 series advantage over Wisconsin, including 27-6 in Ann Arbor. Last season, however, the Badgers thumped the Wolverines in Madison by a 45-24 final.
A key to Wisconsin's success this season is that it has committed only seven turnovers to date, tied for the fewest in the nation. Quarterback Scott Tolzien deserves plenty of credit for that distinction, has he has been intercepted just five times in 211 pass attempts, Tolzien has completed 72.5 percent of his tosses for 1,869 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he has done do with a rather mediocre group of receivers. Make no mistake, the running game is the focus the Wisconsin offense, as it has accounted for 228.2 ypg, 5.4 yards per carry and 35 touchdowns to date. John Clay, who leads the squad with 929 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, is listed as questionable for this weekend's tilt with a knee injury. Fortunately, James White and Montee Ball are capable of picking up the slack. white has rushed for 714 yards and 11 scores, while Ball has 513 rushing yards and nine touchdowns to his credit.
Opponents are only managing 19.5 ppg against Wisconsin, which is surrendering 315.6 total ypg. The Badgers are allowing only 3.8 yards per rushing attempt, and the fact that a Big Ten team has permitted a mere four rushing touchdowns through 10 games is a tremendous accomplishment. The Badgers are not as strong against the pass, but 20 sacks have been notched. J.J. Watt is a defensive standout who has posted 18 TFLs, including six sacks.
Against Indiana last week, Wisconsin posted 598 total yards, including 338 rushing yards. The Badgers had 10 offensive touchdowns in that affair, including six rushing scores, and didn't commit a single turnover. Tolzien completed 15-of-18 passes for 181 yards and three scores, while Ball paced the backfield with 167 rushing yards and three touchdowns. White added 144 yards and two scores, and Clay didn't even play in that contest, making the blowout all the more impressive.
"We actually weren't surprised about scoring (83 points)," said Ball after the romp. "We practiced very hard and we were expecting to impose our will upon them."
Wisconsin's defense was obviously overshadowed by its offensive play last weekend, but the Badgers got the job done against Indiana. The Hoosiers were only able to post 316 total yards and two touchdowns in the blowout.
Coach Rodriguez was not happy with the play of Michigan's offense for much of last weekend's game against Purdue. The Wolverines finished with a solid total of 395 total yards, but they turned the ball over five times, including three lost fumbles. Denard Robinson was intercepted twice and looked rather average under center, something that couldn't be said early on this season when the versatile signal caller was a Heisman frontrunner.
Early in the first quarter against Purdue, Michigan's Cameron Gordon picked up a fumble and raced 58 yards for a touchdown.
"It changes the game," said linebacker Kenny Demens of the early defensive touchdown. "Not just for the defense but the offense also."
The Wolverines yielded just 256 yards in the clash and also forced five turnovers to equal the total committed by the Michigan offense.
Overall this season, Michigan is generating 37.7 ppg and 521.8 total ypg. Robinson's numbers are staggering, as he has passed for 1,990 yards and 14 touchdowns while rushing for 1,417 yards and 12 scores. Roy Roundtree is the top receiver for the Wolverines, as he has made 51 catches for 725 yards and five scores.
Foes have posted 32.1 ppg against Michigan, which is surrendering 433.9 total ypg. The Wolverines have allowed 39 touchdowns to opposing offenses, including 23 rushing scores, and there is plenty of room for improvement against both the run and the pass. Jonas Mouton paces Michigan with 89 total tackles, including 7.5 TFLs.
Wisconsin is a more complete team than Michigan, which struggles mightily on defense. For that reason, give an edge to the visiting Badgers.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wisconsin 27, Michigan 24