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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, March 02, 2024
The Badgers are looking for their second win against a top five opponent. 

The Badgers are looking for their second win against a top five opponent. 

Cooling Peppers key for Badgers in Ann Arbor

Wisconsin must shut down superstar Jabrill Peppers to win


Don’t get frustrated

The Badgers don’t care that Michigan is ranked No. 4; that’s just a number. The Badgers don’t care about The Big House; they have Camp Randall. The Badgers don’t care about blowout wins against Hawaii or UCF; they took down No. 8 Michigan State in East Lansing and defeated No. 6-ranked LSU on a “neutral” field in Green Bay, Wis.

The Badgers are a more difficult opponent than what Michigan has faced this year. The Wolverines must be mentally prepared for offensive drives to stagnate and for their defense to not always capitalize on three-and-outs. Should the Wolverines play the game only a possession ahead, or even trail, they must not panic in waters they haven’t even dipped their toes in this season. They must be prepared to improvise, be prepared to adjust and be prepared for whatever Wisconsin’s stellar defense will throw at them.

Keep Peppers hot

Heisman-level player? At home? Against a top-25 rival? These are the conditions Michigan and their dynamic returner Jabrill Peppers dream of. Big players make big plays in big games. Peppers has blitzed vulnerable kick return teams for 308 yards and one touchdown.

Now, one touchdown isn’t that impressive per se, but with returns of 53, 54, and 55 yards, he has displayed his tendency to always set up his team with the best field position possible—adding another dimension to Michigan’s style of play. Instead of enduring a quarter-eating drive, Peppers saves his team the extra snaps and sets them up in great position. This allows the Wolverines to save energy and unleash its bevy of weapons in pivotal fourth quarter attacks to outpace and overpower fatigued teams.

Wisconsin has already given up a punt return touchdown this season, so look for Peppers to watch the film from that return and look to exploit the same holes Akron took advantage of.

Bring the noise

One of Michigan’s biggest assets is its home field, full of maize and blue plastered fans worshipping their savior Jim Harbaugh. With a thunderous crowd of 100,000 plus, the stadium can seriously bring the noise.

This factor is a disadvantage to any team not used to the kind of noise that a crowd of that magnitude can produce. The atmosphere can become a problem when making late pre-snap adjustments, as poor communication can result in a costly delay of game, or an ill-timed use of a time-out.

Look for Michigan to dial it up on second and long, third down and especially fourth down. Alex Hornibrook was tested last week in East Lansing, and although he coughed it up early, he took control of the game to silence the Spartan faithfully. Michigan is a different beast and the young QB, making only his second start of the season, could fall victim if the Badgers struggle early.

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Make Jabrill chill

One of Michigan’s key cogs in its prolific scoring machine is the all-purpose superstar Jabrill Peppers. Not even two minutes into its game last week against Penn State, Peppers took a punt 53 yards in the blink of an eye—showcasing the big play ability he’s capable of. He is a shooting star; both in the power and speed of his runs, and in the pace of his rising prominence in the national spotlight. With the game at home, expect the Wolverines’ crowd to be itching for a reason to make some noise in Ann Arbor and rattle the Badgers.

One way to silence the deafening noise: stop Jabrill. Close the gaps on punt returns, wrap him up with two arms, converge on him when someone makes contact and block him when he is playing defense. The Badgers had success stopping another Heisman-level talent in Leonard Fournette earlier this year, so don’t look for the Badgers to hide, but rather embrace bursting another Heisman bubble.

Carpe diem

The Badgers have talked all season about taking it week by week, not looking forward to games beyond the one at hand. But, you know the Badgers have had this game circled on their calendar.

Putting this win on Wisconsin’s résumé could be a pitch used to swing top Michigan recruits away from Harbaugh’s clutches. Michigan’s game is a new style unbeholden to the Badgers this season, touting an unrelenting offensive force determined to run opponents off the field.

But, with a win, Wisconsin’s playoff hopes could be legitimized should the Badgers be able to string two top-ten wins in a row.

Anchor down on third down

With Michigan’s plethora of options on offense, the Badgers must step up on third down and limit the Wolverines’ conversions to a minimum. In their first game of the season against Hawaii, Michigan was a perfect seven-of-seven on third down.

Last week, the Wolverines strung together key conversions on third down, going 11-16, to keep their offense chugging and their defense resting on the sideline. They even showed the gusto to try their luck on fourth down, converting two of their four attempts.

The Badgers’ defense, led by linebacker Vince Biegel, stymied the Spartans last week for a paltry four-of-13 on third down, showing that a raucous road crowd doesn’t stop them from getting the ball back.

Look for the Badgers to stop Michigan’s offensive frenzies early, letting Alex Hornibrook and their two-headed monster of a backfield give the Wolverines all they can handle defensively.

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