First quarter key for UM against UW

Wisconsin's defense will look to stifle Michigan early and often Saturday morning. 

Image By: Morgan Winston

Wisconsin

  1. Wisconsin’s defense will need to keep the same mentality they had against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Badgers’ stout defense gave up a stingy 66 total yards of offense against the Hawkeyes. In order to prevent Michigan from stealing a win in Camp Randall, the Badgers will need to have the same mentality. Fortunately for UW, the Wolverines are fairly banged up. Their top rusher, junior running back Karan Higdon, left last week’s game against Maryland with a foot/ankle injury. Wisconsin’s defensive line is the best that the Wolverines have seen thus far in the season, averaging three sacks per game on opposing quarterbacks. The Badgers were able to drop Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley four times in their matchup against the Hawkeyes. The Badgers were also able to take the ball away from the Hawkeyes three times. Leon Jacobs had two fumble recoveries and T.J. Edwards brought in a one-handed interception late in the game. Wisconsin’s defense has punished opposing offenses all season, and they will need to continue that against Michigan.
  2. Jonathan Taylor needs to get going early. It’s no secret that the Badgers struggle starting strong. Wisconsin quickly fell to a seven-point deficit against Iowa thanks to Alex Hornibrook’s pick six on the opening drive. Accordingly, the Badgers need to get Taylor moving earlier in the game. The more Wisconsin hands the ball off to the freshman, the better off they are. Taylor controls the Wisconsin offense and carries them on his back. With 157 yards against Iowa, Taylor provided a spark for a sluggish Badgers offense. Taylor, however, must hold onto the ball. The true freshman coughed up his fifth fumble of the year last week. Still, Taylor is worth the slippery fingers, as he completed his fifth game with over 150 yards. In order for the Badgers to claim victory against the Wolverines, they must establish the running game early and stick with it throughout.
  3. Take advantage of Michigan’s weak wide receivers. It could be a fun day for the Badgers’ secondary on Saturday. The Wolverines’ wide receivers caught for just one pass against the Maryland Terrapins. Eddie McDoom was the lone receiver with only two yards on the day. Michigan’s receivers are quite easily taken out of the game, as the Michigan offense relies on their tight ends. This all comes back to the Badgers’ defense being as dominant against Michigan as they were against Iowa. If the Badgers can generate pressure up front and rush Brandon Peters into throws, Derrick Tindal, Nick Nelson and company will have a fun day against the inexperienced quarterback. Peters has just four touchdown passes on the season but has not turned the ball over. Michigan’s offense is banged up, which will make for an entertaining game for the unforgiving Badger defense.

Michigan

  1. Get pressure on Hornibrook to force bad decisions. Sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook did not start the game off strong against the Hawkeyes. On just his second pass attempt of the game, Hornibrook threw his first of two pick-sixes on the game. In order for Michigan to upset Wisconsin at home, they must generate a pass rush. If they can get Hornibrook under pressure, they will rush him into forced passes and create turnovers. Hornibrook must learn how to operate under pressure. It may be easier for Michigan to get a decent pass rush on the quarterback thanks to injury. Sophomore center Tyler Biadasz left Saturday’s game against Iowa early in the second half with an apparent leg injury. If Biadasz, who has been the starting center all season, is a no-go on Saturday, the Wolverines will have an easier time getting after Hornibrook.
  2. Hornibrook has few targets. To make matters worse for Hornibrook, he has only one of his favorite targets left on the field. Jazz Peavy hasn’t been on the field for Wisconsin since late September and Quintez Cephus is out for the year with a right leg injury. Hornibrook still has senior tight end Troy Fumagalli on the field, but defenders have done a good job at keeping him out of the game plan. Hornibrook has been forced to rely on Danny Davis, AJ Taylor and Kendric Pryor. All three have been decent this season, but are not as experienced as Peavy and Cephus. This could be a huge benefit for Michigan. This is a big game for both teams and it will be important for the young receivers to play well, even if the pressure is high. If they can’t perform well, Wisconsin could be looking at its first loss of the season.
  3. Michigan will need to start hot. Anyone who has ever been to Camp Randall on game day, knows just how electric the atmosphere is. If Michigan wants to silence the 80,000 Badger fans in attendance, it will need to start fast. The Wolverines will need to set the tone early and score on the first drive of the game. Badger fans know how important this game is for the Badgers’ playoff hopes and will certainly be rowdy (especially with ESPN’s College Gameday making an appearance.) A huge pro for Michigan would be taking the crowd out of the game. If Maize and Blue can make the stadium quiet, it will only help them against an already extremely tough defense.

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