Wisconsin enters Evanston with momentum and divisional supremacy on the line — the Badgers and Wildcats are in a four-way tie for first in the Big Ten West, and a win for Wisconsin would keep it in pole position in the race for Indianapolis.
One of Northwestern’s biggest weaknesses in 2018 has been its offensive line. The Wildcat offensive line has given up 18 sacks in only seven games, third-worst in the Big Ten. Along with providing poor pass protection for quarterback Clayton Thorson, the Northwestern offensive line hasn’t been able to block well enough to allow its running game to succeed. Northwestern ranks last in the conference with 547 rushing yards, a number which pales in comparison to Wisconsin’s Big Ten-leading 1,975 yards on the ground.
Northwestern’s weak offensive line provides an opportunity for senior linebacker T.J. Edwards to continue his dominant season. Over the past two games Edwards has 10 solo tackles, one sack and one interception. Edwards has had an exceptional season as he leads the team with three sacks and is near the top of the Big Ten in solo tackles.
Wisconsin will need Edwards to make an impact early, especially on first and second down in run support, in order to shut down Northwestern’s ground game and force the Wildcats to throw the ball.
Edwards will also need to be productive in coverage, an area where he has thrived in his career. He’ll have to make open field tackles to stop Northwestern’s speedy receivers, such as Riley Lees, if the Wildcats attack the middle of the field in the passing game.
Rain is expected to be a factor in this game which will likely lead to more rushing attempts from both teams. If that happens, the Badgers will need a big game out of Edwards to keep Northwestern’s running backs silent.