This Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium, the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers and No. 24 Michigan Wolverines will own the college football national spotlight as the only top-ranked teams going head-to-head on the weekend slate of games.
The questions that everyone are asking is, can Wisconsin remain undefeated and gain traction with their bid to garner a playoff birth? Or will Michigan spoil their dreams?
The Badgers have remained outside the top four rankings behind Alabama, Clemson, Miami and Oklahoma despite their unbeaten record.
But despite the cries of injustice from Big Ten fans, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Wisconsin’s strength of schedule ranks No. 67 in the country, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. That’s the lowest of any ranked Power 5 team, which is interesting considering that the Big Ten conference has six teams ranked in the selection committee’s top 25.
Uploaded by Wisconsin Badgers on 2017-09-16.
No Big Ten team has been ranked in the committee’s top four all season, so its best chance of placing one there would be if the Badgers can finish the year as an unbeaten conference champ. In order to make that happen, Wisconsin needs to dispose of Michigan and Minnesota next week, setting up a likely game against No. 9 Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game.
With teams like Oklahoma seeming to score every time they touch the ball as Sooner QB Baker Mayfield runs at the front of the pack in the Heisman race, it’s easy for the casual fan to lose sight of the fact that some teams do their damage with vicious defenses.
The Badgers and Wolverines are two such teams.
They walk into this game with both of their defensive units being stingier than Mr. Krabs. Wisconsin leads all FBS teams in total defense, surrendering a mere 247.6 yards per game. Their D strangles opponents’ rushing attacks like McMurphy did Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest, giving up a paltry 81.5 yards per game.
Last week, they allowed only 66 total yards against Iowa, a team who ran for 243 yards when the Hawkeyes snuffed Ohio State 55-24.
Michigan has won three straight, and a convincing victory over them would help the Badgers’ bid for a coveted playoff birth. But as mentioned earlier, the Wolverines have their own stout defense, which ranks second nationally in total defense. Despite their anemic offense, they win because their D is greedier than Mr. Burns.
Michigan throws the ball like 50 Cent tossing out the first pitch at a Mets game, but their running back tandem of junior Karan Higdon and sophomore Chris Evans makes things happen.
Michigan’s Karan Higdon runs for a 77-yard touchdown against Minnesota in the first quarter.
Higdon has rushed for 854 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. This will be the fifth start of the year for third-string freshman quarterback Brandon Peters, who has completed 28 of his 46 passing attempts for 329 yards and four scores.
Wisconsin sophomore QB Alex Hornibrook is legit, having completed 132 of his 206 passing for 1,863 yards and 17 touchdowns. But he has a propensity of throwing interceptions as well.
Badgers true freshman running back Jonathan Taylor is one of the best kept secrets in the country and averages 152.5 yards per game to go along with his Big Ten-leading 12 TDs.
Michigan would love nothing better than to give Wisconsin their first loss. And the Badgers want to prove that they’re a national championship contender. We’ll find out what’s what on Saturday afternoon.
jonathan taylor is a freshman rb for the wisconsin badgers he is a future heisman trophy winner