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NCAA Week 5: Previewing Wisconsin Football’s Match-up

October 1, 2016 • Jon Lowe • Front Page, NCAA, Predictions, Preview

I doubt any of you saw this coming, especially the guy reading this thinking “I did,” I’m talking mainly to you.

For those who were critical about putting the Badgers from unranked to the top 10 after the LSU win, I think it’s safe to say that at this point in the season nobody has a pair of better wins than the Badgers.

Sure, Louisville smacked down Florida State, Alabama beat Ole Miss, Houston and Ohio State beat Oklahoma, but nobody has a road blowout over a Top 10 team and a “neutral” win over a preseason Top 5 team. Throw in a 54-10 blowout of a supposedly “on the rise” Akron team, and Wisconsin’s résumé is the best at this point.

I suppose that is the benefit of staring death row in the face to start the season and coming out with not only your life, but a big grin.

I did say before the season that it was entirely possible for the Badgers to go 10-2, scroll down my blog for proof, it’s just I had them losing to Michigan State then beating Michigan. I still believe they can beat Michigan, who with all fairness to Penn State, have not really faced a real challenge yet. Penn State is now 2-2, and Penn State did not go into Ann Arbor fresh off a win over their down-the-road counterparts 30-6, Penn State has not played and beaten an SEC team.

Yes, Michigan is tough, but they still have not left the Big House. This Michigan team struggled against a bottom-feeder Pac-12 team in Colorado, and they have no other quality wins. They have not played a defense like Wisconsin’s yet, and with a healthy Corey Clement, Taiwan Deal and Bradrick Shaw the Badgers have a good foursome of running backs.

Michigan this year has a pretty good offense, and the passing game led by freshman quarterback Wilton Speight is an animal the Badgers have not faced yet. Wideout Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh, along with tight end Jake Butt (HA) are all NFL prospects, and Speight down the road (knowing how Michigan-biased everybody is) will probably be thought of as a first-round pick at quarterback. Running back De’Veon Smith is also NFL-ready and Chris Evans also has had a good season so far, but the Badgers’ run defense––and defense in general––is phenomenal. Linebacker T.J. Watt will be playing without star captain and teammate Vince Biegel (broken foot) on the outside against the Wolverines, but they have numerous playmakers elsewhere who will make this defense tough on Michigan. I like the Badgers’ defense here.

I know the Badgers have a freshman quarterback too, but Hornibrook has experience against top competition already. When talking about Michigan’s defense, you can’t really avoid the playmakers in the secondary, including a Top 10 prospect in strong safety Jabril Peppers. Cornerback Jourdan Lewis is also a top prospect at his position, but the thing about the Badgers is, they run first. The Badgers are going to grind out this football game, because another road blowout over a Michigan team is unlikely, and frankly the strength of Michigan is matched up against the weakness of Wisconsin. Michigan has a great pass defense, and although Wisconsin’s passing game is better, it’s still their weakness. My question is, what is the point of having that strength if it is not practical for winning this football game? I’m not worried about Michigan’s secondary, because Wisconsin isn’t going to win by throwing the football, they are going to win with the ground game and defense.

I understand that Michigan’s front seven is not bad by any means, but neither is the Badgers’ offensive line and running game. However, as much as I dislike coach Jim Harbaugh and his personality, he did revitalize the Stanford program, took the 49ers to a Super Bowl and multiple postseason appearances, and already has Michigan back to national relevance.

In other words, he knows how to coach, and the game is in his house. I really like the Badgers, but I can’t see their luck going on forever and if I had to pick between this game and the Ohio State game in two weeks, I’d rather have them knock the Buckeyes back to Columbus. If the Badgers win, the voters better put them right below Alabama at No. 2 in the country, but for now I’m going with Michigan. Not by much, but something along the lines of 21-17, Wolverines.

Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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