Wisconsin State Journal reporter Jim Polzin breaks down the matchup between the No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers and the No. 11 Michigan Wolverines on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
WHEN THE BADGERS HAVE THE BALL
The Wolverines defense has been terrific under coordinator Don Brown, who joined the staff following the 2015 season. Michigan hasn’t found a way to shut down UW tailback Jonathan Taylor (above) — 233 yards on 36 carries in two games — but it has made the Badgers one-dimensional in three games under Brown’s direction.
UW has completed only 39.1 percent of its passes — 25 of 64 — for 331 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions in those games.
This will be the first big test for the entire UW offense, but especially for the offensive line. Michigan had to replace a handful of stars from its 2018 unit, but seniors Khaleke Hudson, Devin Gill, Lavert Hill and Josh Metellus are athletic playmakers who can put the Badgers in some uncomfortable positions.
EDGE | UW
WHEN THE WOLVERINES HAVE THE BALL
Michigan rushed for 320 yards against the Badgers last season, the most by a UW opponent since Oregon had 345 in the 2012 Rose Bowl.
A good chunk of that damage (134 yards) came from quarterbacks Shea Patterson (above) and Dylan McCaffery on run-pass options. Patterson had an 81-yard run and later scored a key touchdown, while McCaffery scored on a 44-yard burst. Patterson injured an oblique muscle on his first snap of the 2019 season, so the bye week came at a good time. McCaffery also likely will see time vs. UW.
The Wolverines would love to get junior Donovan Peoples-Jones back for this game. Peoples-Jones, who had 47 receptions for 612 yards and eight touchdowns in 2018, has missed the first two games with an unspecified injury. Left tackle Jon Runyan, who also has missed the first two games, is expected to be in the lineup vs. UW.
True freshman Zach Charbonnet has been the primary ball-carrier for the Wolverines, rushing for 190 yards and three touchdowns on 41 carries. UW leads the nation in rushing defense, allowing 20.5 yards per game.
EDGE | PUSH
Michigan kicker Jake Moody is 3 of 3 on field goals. Quinn Nordin handles long field goals for the Wolverines, while Will Hart is a solid punter with a 44.8-yard average.
Keeping the ball out of Giles Jackson’s hands on kickoffs would be a wise idea, but UW touchback machine Zach Hintze should be able to make that happen.
An annoying penalty that has popped up twice for UW in its previous three meetings with Michigan is 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call for roughing the snapper. That penalty extended a drive that led to a Michigan touchdown in the game in Ann Arbor last season.
EDGE | MICHIGAN
UW’s Paul Chryst and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh re-entered the Big Ten at same time in 2015 and have produced similar records; Chryst is 44-12, while Harbaugh is 40-14.
Harbaugh has won two of the first three meetings between the men now coaching at their respective alma maters. The pressure is on Harbaugh to take the program from good to great, and this game will be a good measure of where the Wolverines stand in that quest.
UW has been excellent in 2019, albeit against weak competition. A win over Michigan could turn skeptics into believers.
EDGE | PUSH
Michigan hasn’t won at Camp Randall Stadium since 2001, losing 23-20 in 2005, 37-21 in 2007, 45-24 in 2009 and 24-10 in 2017.
UW is a slight favorite over the Wolverines, who have lost 13 consecutive games as an underdog.
EDGE | UW
STATE JOURNAL'S PICK
Things have come so easily for the Badgers in the first two games, and it’s fair to wonder how they’ll respond when faced with adversity. There figures to be some against the Wolverines, who will test UW in all three phases.
But there’s something special about the Badgers’ vibe and, most importantly, they’re at home.
BADGERS 20, WOLVERINES 16
THE NUMBER (UW)
55.0 — points per game for the Badgers, who rank third nationally in that category. Only Baylor (59.5) and Oklahoma (55.7) are higher than UW.
THE NUMBER (Michigan)
4-0 — Michigan’s record in Big Ten openers under coach Jim Harbaugh.
KEY STAT — OFFENSE
Third-down efficiency: UW has converted 65.4 percent of its third downs (17 of 26), which leads the nation. But the Badgers have had issues in that category during its previous three games against Michigan, going a combined 11 of 41 (26.8 percent).
KEY STAT — DEFENSE
Turnovers: Michigan has turned the ball over five times in its first two games, all on lost fumbles. The Badgers have collected four turnovers, including three interceptions, so far this season.
Prepare for kick off of the University of Wisconsin's football season on Friday night against the South Florida Bulls with the Wisconsin State…