Game of the Week: Michigan vs. Wisconsin

Story posted November 15, 2017 in Sports, CommRadio by Joe Esquivel-Murphy

As the latest College Football Playoff rankings are released, the committee favors the Big Ten. Six teams from the conference are in the top 25. The Wisconsin Badgers are the highest ranked team at No. 5 and are in control of making the playoff with their upcoming matchup against 24th-ranked Michigan.

The Wolverines enter the game at 8-2 with three consecutive wins, as quarterback Brandon Peters has been in charge of the offense. Karan Higdon is Michigan’s most important player on the offensive side of the ball as his 854 rushing yards are good for fourth in the conference and his 10 rushing touchdowns are good for third.

He injured his ankle in the game against Maryland, but looks like he should be ready to go on Saturday. The drop-off behind him in Chris Evans and Ty Isaac is not too bad, as both backs have rushed for over 500 yards so far this season.

The Wolverines’ offensive line has to be geared up for a Wisconsin defense that allowed 66 yards to an Iowa offense that decimated Ohio State the week before. T.J. Edwards and Leon Jacobs dominated the Hawkeye offensive line and should create havoc for Peters.

The Badgers also like to run the ball, as freshman running back Jonathan Taylor is a legitimate Heisman candidate with his 1,525 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. His ability to make defenders miss at the line of scrimmage and in the open field makes him a legitimate threat against an aggressive Michigan defense.

Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary have dominated Big Ten offensive lines all season and should give a physical Wisconsin offensive line a good test. The blitzing ability of Khaleke Hudson will be the factor that the Badgers have to account for as quarterback Alex Hornibrook struggled with playmaking defensive backs against Iowa with two pick-sixes to Josh Jackson, the nation’s leader in interceptions.

Hornibrook lost his top receiver Quintez Cephus two weeks ago, and Kendric Pryor played admirably in his absence with a pair of touchdowns. His ability to get separation and win contested catches in traffic will be huge against an aggressive Michigan defense that has returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns.

Peters also has to be careful against Wisconsin, as the Badgers have returned four interceptions for touchdowns. Turnovers are always important in big games, but points off turnovers will be the x-factor as both teams are capable of going through ruts on offense where they cannot move the ball.

If the Wolverines are going to pull off the road upset, freshman wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones will have to assert his dominance over the Badgers’ secondary. He has the size and speed to be a mismatch nightmare on the perimeter, but has struggled with consistency and poor offensive line play to put up monster numbers.

Troy Fumagalli will dominate Michigan’s linebackers as he will use his 6’6” frame to carve out the middle of the field for Hornibrook and Taylor. The Camp Randall crowd will be too much for a Wolverines’ offense that struggled the last time it played against a raucous home crowd and Wisconsin will the game 24-17 to improve to 11-0 on the season.

 

Joseph Esquivel-Murphy is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email jje5139@psu.edu.