The teams last met in 2010 with the Badgers getting the victory.
The Badgers are coming off an impressive road victory over Michigan State last week in East Lansing that saw the offense put up 30 points on the Spartans defense. Entering this game on Saturday the Wisconsin offense has averaged 30 points per game and has had a very balanced attack rushing for 184 rushing yards per game along with passing for 226 yards through the air.
The offensive line has played much better in run blocking and is allowing the play action passing game to stretch defenses vertically. Compared to last season, the offense is averaging 34 rushing yards per game more than last year when they averaged 150 yards per game. However, in the team’s three losses last season, the offense only averaged 33 rushing yards per game which made the offense one dimensional in “big games”.
This year, head coach Paul Chryst has opened up his play calling and is more aggressive in his offensive game plans. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook took over the starting job last week and played very well passing for 195 yards with 1 touchdown along with one interception. He showed poised in a big game on the road and will need to duplicate his play this weekend against one of the best defenses in college football. Hornibrook enters this game completing 67% of his passes for 378 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
Running back Corey Clement leads the team with 251 rushing yards averaging 3.8 yards per carry with 5 touchdowns. Clement should have a bigger role on the road in Ann Arbor this Saturday to take the pressure off of Hornibrook to read defenses in the passing game.
Wide receiver Jazz Peavy leads the team with 16 receptions for 274 yards with 2 scores. Peavy is a solid receiver that will be challenged by a physical secondary in the Michigan Wolverines.
Defensively, the Badgers have played very well despite the loss of their defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to LSU this year. Wisconsin is allowing 11 points per game and has been very good in shutting down the run giving up 80 rushing yards per game. Compared to last season, the unit is allowing 2 points less per game and 15 rushing yards less per game at this point in the season.
The secondary has allowed 196 passing yards to opposing offenses and will need to force Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight to throw underneath coverage this weekend. Wisconsin must be able to generate a pass rush on Speight and force him into quick decisions. The defense has recorded 11 sacks through 4 games and has been very disciplined as a defensive unit.
Wisconsin enters this game committing 3.8 penalties per game and is +2 in turnover margin.
The Wolverines have rolled over the competition so far this year and are coming off a dismantling of Penn State last weekend. On the year, the offense is averaging 52 points per game and is rushing for 229 yards per game entering this game against Wisconsin. In last week’s home win, the offense ripped Penn State for 326 rushing yards en route to the win.
Quarterback Wilton Speight has directed the offense and has looked sharp in his reads and progressions early on in the season. Speight has shown a great touch on his deep passes and is leading an offense that is passing for 238 yards through the air. Speight has completed 63% of his passes for 875 yards with 9 touchdowns and one interception.
Running back De’Veon Smith leads the team with 259 rushing yards with two scores and will look to be the workhorse this Saturday in a tough Big 10 game against the Badgers.
Wide receiver Amarah Darboh and tight end Jake Butt have been Speight’s main targets and have combined for 36 receptions for 482 yards with 7 touchdowns. Both players will be counted on this weekend to work the middle of the field too loosen up the Wisconsin front seven.
The heart and soul of the Wolverines has been the defense which is allowing 13 points per game. The unit plays with a physicality that can play with any offense in the nation. Led by linebacker Jabril Peppers, the Wolverines are allowing 122 rushing yards per game and giving up 147 passing yards to opposing offenses.
Michigan has done an excellent job of getting pressure this season and enters this game with 17 total sacks through 4 games. The defense will need to mix up looks and coverages to confuse Hornibrook into making reads at the line of scrimmage.
Peppers is one of the most dynamic defensive players in the nation. He is a multidimensional player that can run sideline to sideline in running down ball carriers. Entering this game, Peppers is 2nd on the team in total tackles with 33 on the year.
Turnovers will be critical in this game and the team enters this game +4 in turnover margin. That is the one area where the unit is much better than last year. Over the past two years, Michigan has struggled forcing turnovers against opposing teams in big games. In 2014, the team had one of the worst turnover margins in the nation at-16. Even though Jim Harbaugh led the team to a 10 win season, the Wolverines finished the year at -4 in turnover margin. They will need to continue to force turnovers if this team is to make a playoff run in November.