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Posts Tagged ‘Alex Hornibrook’

#24 Michigan at #5 Wisconsin game preview

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

(Brad Mills, USA Today Sports)

It’s hard to believe that only two games remain in the 2017 regular season, but here we are with a chance for Michigan to either make a statement or continue what some believe to be a disappointing season. Never mind that Michigan lost 16 starters, they should be winning a national championship in Jim Harbaugh’s third season, the theory goes. Well, that’s not going to happen this year, but by beating Wisconsin and Ohio State the Wolverines could earn at least a share of the Big Ten East title, which, when taken in context, should be considered a major accomplishment.

Quick Facts
Camp Randall Stadium – 12p.m. EST – FOX
Wisconsin Head Coach: Paul Chryst (3rd season)
Coaching Record: 50-25 (31-6 at UW)
Offensive Coordinator: Joe Rudolph (3rd season)
Defensive Coordinator: Jim Leonhard (1st season)
Last Season: 11-3 (7-2 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: UM 14 – UW 7 (2016)
All-Time Series: Michigan 50-14-1
Record in Madison: Michigan 21-6-1
Jim Harbaugh vs Wisconsin 1-0
Last Michigan win: 2016 (14-7)
Last Wisconsin win: 2010 (48-28)
Current Streak: Michigan 1
Wisconsin schedule to date
Opponent Result
Utah State W 59-10
Florida Atlantic W 31-14
at BYU W 40-6
Northwestern W 33-24
at Nebraska W 38-17
Purdue W 17-9
Maryland W 38-13
at Illinois W 24-10
at Indiana W 45-17
#20 Iowa W 38-14

Doing so is much easier said than done, however, as both Wisconsin and Ohio State rank in the top 10 nationally. Wisconsin has already booked it’s spot in the Big Ten championship game by winning the much easier West and has its sights set on a College Football Playoff berth.

The Badgers are 10-0, but find themselves behind a pair of one-loss teams, Clemson and Oklahoma because of their strength of schedule which has seen them beat just one ranked team. That was 20th-ranked Iowa last week and it was Iowa’s fourth loss of the season. They were only ranked because they used their Kinnick Stadium voodoo on Ohio State the week before that.

Wisconsin played a non-conference schedule that consisted of Utah State, Florida Atlantic, and a very bad BYU team. In conference play, they get to avoid Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State, which means Michigan is their last chance for a quality win before they get to Indianapolis.

Although Michigan holds a 21-6-1 advantage in Madison, they haven’t won there since 2001 when Hayden Epstein kicked a 31-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining to give Michigan a 20-17 win.

Michigan won last season’s matchup 14-7, scoring on a 1-yard Khalid Hill touchdown early in the second quarter and a 46-yard Wilton Speight touchdown pass to Amara Darboh with eight minutes remaining. Jourdan Lewis sealed the win with a leaping, one-handed highlight-reel interception and Michigan’s defense held the Badgers to just 159 total yards.

Can they replicate that performance tomorrow? Let’s take a look at the matchup.


Offensively, Wisconsin ranks 24th nationally and 3rd in the Big Ten in scoring (36.3 points per game), 18th and 2nd in rushing (245.0 yards per game), 95th and 10th in passing (188.1 yards per game), and 37th and 2nd in total offense (433.1 yards per game).

Quarterback Alex Hornibrook ranks seventh in the Big Ten in passing, averaging 186.3 yards per game, but is very accurate, completing 64.1 percent of his passes. However, he is prone to mistakes. His 12 interceptions are more than all but Nebraska’s Tanner Lee, so if Michigan’s defensive front can pressure him they could create some turnovers.

The harder task will be stopping Wisconsin’s running game, which features the Big Ten’s leading rusher, freshman Jonathan Taylor, who averages 152.5 yards per game. He has topped 100 yards in seven of 10 games this season with a high of 249 on 10.0 yards per carry against Nebraska and a low of 73 yards on 6.1 yards per carry against Illinois. Northwestern, who features a rushing defense on par with Michigan’s, held Taylor to his lowest yards per carry of the season — 4.2 — though he did still score two touchdowns.

Defensively, Wisconsin ranks 3rd nationally and 1st in the Big Ten in scoring (13.4 points per game), 1st and 1st in rush defense (81.5 yards per game), 7th and 2nd in pass defense (166.1 yards per game), and 1st and 1st in total defense (247.6 yards per game).

The Badgers defense has shut down virtually everyone this season, allowing no more than 143 rushing yards or 271 passing yards in a single game. Maryland and Illinois both found some success on the ground against Wisconsin, both averaging 4.1 yards per carry, but they combined for just one rushing touchdown. Wisconsin has also done a good job of limiting big plays as only two teams nationally — Alabama and San Diego State — have allowed fewer explosive runs of 10 yards or more. Only three teams have allowed more 20-yard runs and Wisconsin is the only team in the country that hasn’t allowed a 30-yard run. Michigan’s running game ranks 10th nationally with 13 30-yard runs and fifth with nine 40-yard runs.

Wisconsin has also held six of ten opponents to 155 passing yards or fewer, including Iowa, who threw for just 41 yards last week. The same Iowa team that passed for 244 yards against Ohio State the week prior.

With Brandon Peters making his third career start at quarterback — and averaging just nine completions for 108 yards per game — it’s a safe bet to assume Wisconsin will stack the box to stop the run, which means Peters will need to be able to make plays with his arm for Michigan to win. That could make for a big day for Michigan’s tight ends, Sean McKeon and Zach Gentry, who rank second and third on the team in receiving yards and lead the team with two touchdowns each.

This game features two great defenses and two average offenses, so expect a low-scoring game. The weather calls for rain in the morning, but it should be cleared up by game time and shouldn’t affect the game. With Michigan’s running game coming on the past few weeks and Peters’ ability to protect the football — he hasn’t turned it over yet — I like Michigan’s ability to break a couple of big runs even with a Wisconsin defense focusing on stopping the run. Defensively, Wisconsin is the type of offense that Michigan defenses can hold in check, so aside from a couple of early successful drives I don’t see Wisconsin doing much. Quinn Nordin redeems himself by making his only field goal attempt of the game and that’s the difference as Michigan pulls out a close one in Madison.

Score Prediction: Michigan 17 – Wisconsin 14

The numbers game: U-M offense maintains big play pace versus tough Wisconsin D

Thursday, October 6th, 2016


Previously: Is Don Brown’s defense high-risk? The numbers say noMichigan’s Harbaughfense will be more explosive in Year 2, Run game makes big plays in Week 1, While UCF loaded the box Michigan went to the air for big plays, Michigan offense doubles 2015 big play pace through 3 weeks, UM’s smothering defense narrows gap between 2015 D’s big play pace

Last week turned out to be much more of a defensive battle than we here at Maize and Go Blue thought it would be. But Michigan got the win and it wasn’t as close as the score might say. Let’s see what the explosive play numbers looked like.

On offense, perhaps surprisingly, Michigan had nine total big plays — five big run plays and four big pass plays. I know it might not seem like that was the case given the pace of the game but I went back and watched the game and they indeed had nine big plays last week. That’s still down two from their season average coming in (11.25) but right about where I thought they’d end up. However, I think I might change my prediction (they might average around 11 big plays per game) but I’ll wait to see what happens over the next couple of weeks.

So far this season, through five games Michigan is averaging seven big run plays (25th nationally) and 3.8 big pass plays (42nd) for a total of 10.8 big plays per game (20th) with a big play percentage of 14.52 percent (30th). Their big play differential is 4.95 percent (23rd) and their total toxic differential is 31, good for 7th on a per game basis.

Through five games the 2015 team averaged 4.2 big run plays and 2.6 big pass plays, for a total of 6.8 big plays per game with a 9.47 percent big play percentage. Their big play differential was a paltry 1.73 percent and their toxic differential was just nine. Based on this year’s numbers that would put them around the high 50s or low 60s nationally for both big play differential and toxic differential. Michigan has improved their offense by leaps and bounds in Year 2 under Harbaugh.

Michigan offense – 2015 vs 2016 first five weeks comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 35 19 54 14.52% 4.95% 31
2015 21 13 34 9.47% 1.73% 9
Michigan defense – 2015 vs 2016 averages through five weeks
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 4.20 1.60 5.80 9.57% 4.95% 31
2015 3.60 1.00 4.60 7.74% 1.73% 9

On defense, Michigan only surrendered five big plays on Saturday — three run and two pass. In case you forgot, or this is your first time here, anything under six big plays given up per game is an elite defense.

Adding those numbers into the season totals and we see that Michigan is giving up 4.2 big run plays per game (47th) and 1.6 big pass plays (4th) for a total of 5.8 big plays per game (18th), with a big play against percentage of 9.57 percent (35th).

Contrast those numbers against last year’s team through five games: 3.6 big run plays given up and one big pass play for a total of 4.6 big plays given up with a big play against percentage of 7.74 percent. They were better in every big play against metric than this year’s team. But, as I mentioned last week, these numbers still put them in elite defense categories and the tackles for loss and sacks are on pace to blow the 2015 numbers out of the water.

Keep in mind that the 2015 did not keep up their breakneck pace on defense either. Season long, the Wolverines gave up an average of 4.8 big run plays per game and 2.4 big pass plays per game, good for 56th and 13th nationally. Based on total number of plays Michigan gave up a big play 11.49 percent of the time, which ranked 59th nationally. All told, Michigan gave up 7.2 big plays per game, good for 25th nationally. That’s impressive for sure, but they were not able to sustain their early season pace as the competition got tougher. I don’t think that will be the case with this year’s team. I’m on record saying this team should give up around six big plays per game over the course of the season, and I’m sticking with that.

Michigan’s Week 5 big plays
Quarter Down & Distance Player Yards Gained Run/Pass
1 2nd and 8 Wilton Speight to Jake Butt 23 Pass
1 2nd and 4 Chris Evans 22 Run
2 2nd and 10 Wilton Speight to Grant Perry 20 Pass
3 2nd and 10 Wilton Speight to Jehu Chesson 24 Pass
3 2nd and 5 De’Veon Smith 13 Run
3 1st and 10 De’Veon Smith 16 Run
3 1st and 10 Ty Isaac 10 Run
4 1st and 10 Ty Isaac 13 Run
4 1st and 10 Wilton Speight to Amara Darboh 46 (TD) Pass
Wisconsin’s Week 5 big plays
1 3rd and 7 Alex Hornibrook to Robert Wheelwright 24 Pass
1 1st and 10 Corey Clement 10 Run
2 3rd and 3 Alex Hornibrook to Robert Wheelwright 20 Pass
2 1st and 10 Jazz Peavy 17 Run
4 1st and 10 Corey Clement 10 Run

Since I tossed them in last week, and mentioned them again this week I think it’d be good to continue to look at tackles for loss and sacks as an added stat of interest and further proof of Don Brown’s defensive genius. Unfortunately, I do not have game by game numbers for tackles for loss and sacks so for now we’ll just compare the 2015 totals and how this year’s team would stack up if they continue on their current pace.

To refresh your memory, last year Michigan had 88 tackles for loss (6.77 per game) and 32 sacks (2.46 per game). On a per game basis, those numbers were good for 42nd for TFLs and 32nd for sacks. Through five games this year Michigan has 46 tackles for loss (9.2 per game) — 4th and 6th, respectively — and 19 sacks (3.8/g), also 4th and 6th best respectively. Both massive improvements a direct result of Don Brown’s new defense. I know Marcus Ray won’t agree but if Michigan keeps up this pace we may be talking about the 2016 team as one the greatest Michigan defenses of all-time.

Before the bye week we’re going to add in some new stuff to aid in our discussion of explosive plays and to reinforce the football genius of Jim Harbaugh and Don Brown. However, apparently Rutgers is an actual school and they do indeed field what I’m told is a ‘football’ team so this week does not count as bye week. All kidding aside, Chris Ash is a good coach and should eventually have Rutgers looking respectable. Just not by Saturday night.

Let’s take a look at the Scarlet Knights’ numbers through five weeks. Spoiler alert: 2016 Rutgers is bad and they should feel bad. Michigan’s new ‘rival’ to the East is a bad football team and their explosive play/toxic differential numbers confirm that.

Michigan & Rutgers offense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Off. 35 19 54 14.52% 4.95% 31
RU Off. 27 9 36 10.08% -4.36% -16
Michigan & Rutgers defense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Def. 21 8 29 9.57% 4.95% 31
RU Def. 38 15 51 14.45% -4.36% -16

On offense, Rutgers averages a middling 5.4 big run plays per game (59th) and a less than stellar 1.8 big pass plays (118th) for an incredibly shameful 7.2 total big plays per game (106th). Their big play percentage is 10.08 percent (105th), their big play differential is an unsurprising -4.36 percent (117th), and their total toxic differential is -16 — good for 112th on a per game basis.

The line is set around minus-28 right now. I don’t see any reason why Michigan won’t win by at least four touchdowns and I’m pretty sure my weekly staff prediction is going to say we’re on shutout watch. Hooray for new rivalry games!

#4 Michigan 14 – #8 Wisconsin 7: Just enough

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

um-vs-wisconsin-by-bryan-fuller(Bryan Fuller)

It was ugly at times. It was sloppy at times. It got tense at times. But Michigan did what good teams do. Despite three missed field goals the Wolverines ground out a 14-7 win over 8th-ranked Wisconsin to remain perfect on the season.

After averaging 52 points per game through the first four weeks of the season, Michigan’s offense had trouble putting points on the board against the nation’s 7th-best scoring defense. But it was Michigan’s own defense that rose to the occasion and shut down Wisconsin’s offense, holding the Badgers to just 159 total yards — their fewest in at least 13 years.

The Wolverines recorded two sacks, but bottled up Wisconsin’s running game to the tune of 2.5 yards per carry and kept quarterback Alex Hornibrook under pressure all afternoon. The freshman who shined in a 30-6 win over Michigan State a week prior went just 9-of-25 for 88 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

Final Stats
Michigan Wisconsin
Score 14 7
Record 5-0, 2-0 4-1, 1-1
Total Yards 349 159
Net Rushing Yards 326 70
Net Passing Yards 130 71
First Downs 21 8
Turnovers 1 3
Penalties-Yards 6-45 3-30
Punts-Yards 7-326 9-321
Time of Possession 35:41 24:19
Third Down Conversions 3-of-15 4-of-15
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 2-13 4-32
Field Goals 0-for-3 0-for-0
PATs 2-for-2 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 1-of-3 1-of-1
Red Zone Scores-TDs 1-of-3 1-of-1
Full Box Score

Michigan moved the ball well in the first quarter with 108 total yards on 15 plays and scored the first points of the game on the first play of the second quarter. They also reached the Wisconsin 13 on the next possession before the drive stalled, but Kenny Allen missed a 31-yard field goal. He missed a 45-yarder on Michigan’s next possession and Michigan took a 7-0 lead into the half.

Michigan opened the second half with a promising drive, but it ended with the first interception Wilton Speight has thrown since his first pass of the season. Wisconsin capitalized with a 31-yard touchdown drive to tie the game. But Michigan’s defense clamped down the rest of the way, yielding just 34 yards on Wisconsin’s final six possessions — just 1.9 yards per play.

Michigan broke the deadlock with a 46-yard touchdown pass from Speight to Amara Darboh with just under eight minutes remaining. Three Wisconsin possessions later, Jourdan Lewis sealed the game with a spectacular one-handed interception.

The Michigan offense amassed 349 yards of offense, the most Wisconsin’s defense has allowed so far this season. Speight went 20-of-32 for 219 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. De’Veon Smith led Michigan with with 66 yards on 17 carries, while Ty Isaac and Chris Evans each got eight carries and went for 48 and 34 yards, respectively. Darboh caught six passes for 87 yards and the touchdown.

Defensively, Michigan held Wisconsin to its worst offensive performance of the season by far. The Badgers’ previous worst was 317 yards against Michigan State last week and Michigan held them to half of that. Corey Clement rushed for 66 yards on 17 carries and Wisconsin converted just 4-of-15 third-downs.

Michigan (5-0, 2-0) hits the road for the first time this season for a primetime tilt with Rutgers (2-3, 0-2) next Saturday. The Scarlet Knights lost 58-0 to Ohio State on Saturday.

Game Ball – Offense

Amara Darboh (6 catches, 87 yards, 1 touchdown)
Michigan’s offense struggled to move the ball consistently for most of the game and converted just 3-of-15 third downs, but senior receiver Amara Darboh made two big plays in the fourth quarter that ultimately won the game. On 3rd-and-7 from the Michigan 39, Darboh caught a slant for a first down across midfield. On the very next play, he beat the Wisconsin cornerback down the sideline and caught a perfectly thrown deep ball for the game-winning touchdown.

Week 1 — Chris Evans (8 carries, 112 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 2 — Wilton Speight (25-of-37 for 312 yards, 4 touchdowns)
Week 3 — Jake Butt (7 receptions for 87 yards)
Week 4 — Grant Newsome, Ben Braden, Mason Cole, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson (326 rush yards, 0 sacks allowed)

Game Ball – Defense

Channing Stribling (2 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 pass breakups)
This week’s defensive game ball could have very easily gone to Ryan Glasgow for clogging the middle of the line and bottling up Wisconsin’s running game. But when a defensive back records two interceptions — and nearly a third — he gets the game ball. Channing Stribling has always played second fiddle to Jourdan Lewis in Michigan’s secondary, but although Lewis’ interception was the highlight of the game, Stribling shut down the Wisconsin passing game. His second interception, when Wisconsin was trying to put together a game-tying drive with less than four minutes remaining, effectively sealed the game.

Week 1 — Mike McCray (9 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
Week 2 — Rashan Gary (6 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks)
Week 3 — Jabrill Peppers (9 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 kick ret. for 81 yards, 4 punt ret. for 99 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — Maurice Hurst (6 tackles, 3 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack)

M&GB staff predictions – Wisconsin

Friday, September 30th, 2016


Previously this week: First Look, Five-Spot Challenge, Tailgate Tuesday: Tomato pie, Week 4 power rankings, The numbers game, Game preview

Both Michigan and Wisconsin enter Saturday’s matchup ranked in the top 10 — the first time in series history that the two have played as top 10 teams. Both earned dominant wins over Big Ten East foes last weekend and both feature defenses that rank among the nation’s best. So what gives?

Once again, Joe was the winner of our staff predictions last week with his prediction of Michigan 42 – Penn State 10. He now has the lead in our staff picks challenge with three wins in four weeks. Here are our picks for this week:

Staff Predictions
Michigan Wisconsin
Justin 33 13
Derick 35 24
Sam 24 10
Josh 41 13
Joe 34 14
M&GB Average 33 15

Michigan and Wisconsin feature two of the nation’s best defenses, but I’m not sold on the offenses the Badgers have faced to date. That’s not saying that their defense isn’t great. But Michigan’s offense is light years better than those of LSU, Akron, Georgia State, and Michigan State. Michigan may not score the 52 points it averages, but it will move the ball semi-consistently and put a little bit of humility into Wisconsin’s defense. Look for a lot more Jabrill Peppers as a ball carrier, receiver, and as a decoy as Jim Harbaugh finds ways to neutralize Wisconsin’s linebacker strength.

Defensively, Michigan matches up nicely with Wisconsin’s offense. Alex Hornibrook hasn’t faced the type of pass rush Michigan brings and won’t have the same accuracy he displayed last week. Without a spread threat, the defense will be able to focus on bottling up Corey Clement and forcing third-and-longs where the Wolverines excel.

The first half will remain a close, defensive battle, but Michigan’s offense will find enough to pull away in the second. Wilton Speight will take care of the ball and put together a nice stat line with Jake Butt being his favorite target.

Michigan 33 – Wisconsin 13


Wisconsin is the first real test Michigan will face this season, setting up a top-10 battle in Ann Arbor.

Michigan provides a bigger test for Alex Hornibrook, who will see a defense averaging 4.3 sacks per game. On offense, Michigan probably won’t get up to 52 points (its season average), but it should do enough to win the game.

Wisconsin will hang around, but the special teams dominance of Michigan will wear down the Badgers. Michigan will pull away late to win.

Michigan 35 – Wisconsin 24


Many are calling this the first real test for this Michigan Wolverines squad after four straight blowouts. But with Vince Biegel out for the Badgers and Michigan’s defense getting close to full strength (minus the unfortunate loss of Jeremy Clark), I think the Wolverines hold every advantage in what should be a classic rough-and-tumble Big Ten throwback contest.

Jabrill Peppers should see plenty of snaps in all three phases, Jourdan Lewis and Ben Braden should inch closer to full health, and Michigan’s defense should be far too stout for a Wisconsin team designed to ground and pound. I’ll take the Maize and Blue in convincing fashion again.

Michigan 27 – Wisconsin 10

Josh (1)

As we saw in this week’s The Numbers Game, Wisconsin is very good at preventing explosive plays but not so good at generating them. This plays right into Michigan’s hands. I think this will be a good test for the Michigan offensive line as they have struggled thus far against 3-4 fronts, and Wisconsin is always a stout team up front. I expect Wisconsin to keep Michigan well under their season average for explosive plays (currently 11.25 per game), but with the loss of stud linebacker Vince Biegel they will struggle to keep Michigan the board.

It appears as though sophomore running back Karan Higdon is not only healthy but quite possibly the No. 2 option behind De’Veon Smith. If this holds true I think we’ll see a heavy dose of run and play-action passing this weekend. I’m not sure Michigan tops 45 for the sixth straight game (dating back to last season) but they’ll come close. As we’ve seen Harbaugh isn’t one to let his foot off the gas.

On the other side of the ball redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook had a solid outing against Michigan State last week but it appeared that his arm strength was a bit, shall we say, lacking. He likely won’t be able to test Michigan deep, nor is he a threat to run. At least not a dangerous run threat anyway. It looks like Bryan Mone may be back this week, and if he is Hornibrook could be in for a long, painful afternoon. Michigan should keep their season pace with 10-plus tackles for loss and add three or four sacks as well.

Wisconsin is a pro-style team and they don’t really use many 3-plus wide receiver sets, so the huge loss of Jeremy Clark, literally and figuratively, might not rear its ugly head this week. However, Paul Chryst is a solid coach and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him roll out a few plays with an extra receiver or two to try and stress Michigan’s pass defense.

Honestly, I’m not too worried this week but I am very uncomfortable going forward. Brandon Watson, David Long, and Lavert Hill don’t exactly instill much confidence in me right now. But again, this is as a good a week to test out some new defensive back options as any without much fear of disastrous results.

Normally you expect a battle of two top defenses (currently No. 1 and 2 in the Big Ten) to come down to which team has the better offense. That team is Michigan, by a longshot. On top of that ,I don’t think Wisconsin is as good as their record — and previous opponents’ ranking — would lead you to believe. LSU is clearly a dumpster fire and Michigan State gave that game away with poor quarterback play and a ton of turnovers. Did I mention Georgia State took them deep into the fourth quarter? Wisconsin is good, don’t get me wrong, but Michigan is just much better all-around. My gut says it won’t be as close as a top ten matchup ought to be though. Wolverines win big, again.

Michigan 41 – Wisconsin 13

Joe (3)

Now things start to get a little fun. We’re done with the early cream-puffs and start to get into the meat of the schedule. Mmmmmm…..meat! If you browse the inter webs on Tuesday’s, you know what we do to meat around here. We cook it low and slow and typically char it at the end. This will be no different against the Badgers. They are coming into the Big House riding high after a dominating performance against the Spartans. The big difference is the offense they will see this week is much better than anything they’ve seen so far. Speight will distribute the ball around and take a few deep shots along the way and eventually find Butt for a touchdown or two. The defense will get all over the freshman quarterback and force a few bad decisions resulting in short fields for the good guys. Michigan wins this one going away.

Michigan 34 – Wisconsin 14

#4 Michigan vs #8 Wisconsin game preview

Friday, September 30th, 2016


Michigan’s schedule has gotten progressively harder each week this season and the Wolverines have passed each test with flying colors. Tomorrow, Michigan faces its toughest test yet when eighth-ranked Wisconsin comes to town.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30p.m. EST – ABC
Wisconsin Head Coach: Paul Chryst (2nd season)
Coaching Record: 33-22 (14-3 at Wis)
Offensive Coordinator: Joe Rudolph (2nd season)
Defensive Coordinator: Justin Wilcox (1st season)
Last Season: 10-3 (6-2 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: UW 48 – UM 28 (2010)
All-Time Series: Michigan 49-14-1
Record in Ann Arbor: Michigan 27-7
Jim Harbaugh vs Wisconsin First meeting
Last Michigan win: 2008 (27-25)
Last Wisconsin win: 2010 (48-28)
Current Streak: Wisconsin 2
Wisconsin Schedule to date
Opponent Result
#5 LSU W 16-14
Akron W 54-10
Georgia State W 23-17
#8 Michigan State W 30-6

Apparently Wisconsin is a part of the Big Ten. It’s true, I just looked it up. High schoolers right now probably don’t even remember the last time Michigan played the Badgers as the two teams haven’t faced off since 2010, when they wouldn’t have even been teenagers yet. Yes, that was two coaches ago for both teams. Rich Rodriguez graced one sideline and Bret Bielema graced the other. Those were different times indeed.

But now, both teams are back and will face off as top 10 opponents for the first time in series history. Although Michigan has owned the all-time series (49-14-1), Wisconsin has won the last two, beating Michigan 48-28 in 2010 and 45-24 in 2009. And while Michigan comes into this year’s matchup ranked higher, Wisconsin is the team that has already played and beaten two ranked opponents.

Wisconsin opened the season with a 16-14 win over then-5th-ranked LSU in a not-so-neutral site game at Lambeau Field. But that win has looked less and less impressive as the first month of the season wraps up. LSU let Jacksonville State hang around until the last minute of the first half. Then they squeaked by Mississippi State, 23-20. Then last week they lost to Auburn 18-13 and promptly fired Les Miles. They feature the nation’s 110th-best scoring offense and 111th-best total offense. Consider that Penn State ranks 72nd in scoring and 112th in total offense.

It remains to be seen whether or not the big win over Michigan State is as good as it looked. The Spartans have been dominant in recent years, but had an uninspired performance against Furman in the opener and then knocked off Notre Dame, who is just 1-3.

So is Wisconsin as good as its wins initially looked? Or is their ranking overinflated due to overrated opponents? The answer probably lies somewhere in between, but let’s take a look at the matchups.

When Wisconsin has the ball

Wisconsin’s offense currently ranks 63rd nationally in scoring offense (30.8 points per game), 75th in total offense (410.5 yards per game), 58th in rushing (184.2 yards per game), and 70th in passing (226.2 yards per game).

Whereas Michigan’s offense hasn’t recorded fewer than 397 yards in a game this season, Wisconsin’s has exceeded that only twice — 400 yards against Georgia State and 586 against Akron. Against the two good defenses it has faced, it has averaged just 328 yards. Those defenses — LSU and Michigan State — rank seventh and 21st in S&P+. By comparison, Michigan ranks second.

Wisconsin started senior quarterback Bart Houston for the first three games after winning the competition in fall camp, but Chryst went with freshman Alex Hornibrook against Michigan State. Houston completed 62 percent of his passes for 527 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Hornibrook, meanwhile, has completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 378 yards, three touchdowns, and two picks. Against Michigan State last Saturday, Hornibrook went 16-of-26 for 195 yards, one touchdowns, and a pick.

He has a couple of dangerous receivers to throw to in Jazz Peavy and Robert Wheelwright, who have combined for 31 receptions for 502 yards two touchdowns. Peavy had a big game against Akron with seven catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 96 yards against MSU. But Those two scores against Akron are the only two by the tandem thus far. Junior tight end Troy Fumagali is the only other pass catcher with double digit receptions. He has caught 14 passes for 169 yards. Interestingly, the most scoring production has come from lesser known tight ends Eric Steffes and Kyle Penniston and fullback Alec Ingold, who have caught 11 combined passes and three have been touchdowns.

The best player on the Badgers’ offense is senior running back Corey Clement, who averages 83.7 rushing yards per game. He missed the Georgia State game with an injury, but has scored two touchdowns in two of the three games he has played. However, Michigan State held him to just 2.3 yards per carry — one of those being a 22-yards run. Senior Dare Ogunbuwale is the second leading rusher with 186 yards and a touchdown on 42 carries and he’s the best pass catcher out of the backfield. Freshman Bradrick Shaw leads the team with an average of 5.7 yards per carry on 24 attempts.

The offensive line has allowed six sacks through four games, one more than Michigan’s has. But it’s a young line that struggled to open holes for the running game last season. Junior left tackle Ryan Ramczyk, a transfer from UW-Stevens Point, is the elder statesman. Left guard Michael Deiter, center Brett Connors, right guard Beau Benzschawel, and right tackle Jacob Maxwell are all redshirt sophomores.

When Michigan has the ball

Wisconsin’s defense lead the nation in scoring defense a year ago, but defensive coordinator Dave Aranda bolted for LSU. Instead of promoting from within, Chryst hired Justin Wilcox, who had just been fired from USC. Wilcox has been considered one of the top up and coming coaches in football after having success as Boise State’s defensive coordinator from 2006-09 when the Broncs went 49-4. He went from there to Tennessee for a couple seasons, then Washington, and USC, but has yet to land a head coaching gig.

He inherited a lot of pieces from Aranda, including nearly the entire front seven. It’s lead by one of the best linebacking corps in the nation. However, it received a major blow this week when the Badgers announced that senior Vince Biegel will miss a few weeks with a foot injury. While that may make things a bit easier for Michigan’s offense, there is still plenty of talent there. Juniors T.J. Watt and Jack Cichy and sophomore T.J. Edwards are the team’s three leading tacklers and have combined for 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.

The line isn’t the type of pass rushing line that Michigan features, but it mostly stands its ground and lets the linebackers do that. Junior end Connor Sheehy has one quarterback hurry, a tackle for loss, and half a sack, while fellow junior end Chikwe Obasih only has three tackles. Sophomore nose tackle Olive Sagapolu is a 6-foot-2, 340-pound space eater but not a threat to get to the quarterback.

The secondary is where some vulnerabilities may lie, as Wisconsin ranks just sixth in the Big Ten and 39th nationally against the pass. Senior cornerback Sojourn Shelton is a good one and junior Derrick Tindall is as well. They have a combined three interceptions and 10 pass breakups thus far. The safeties are junior D’Cota Dixon and senior Leo Musso, who have combined for 28 tackles, a sack, an interception, two quarterback hurries, and a fumble recovery, which Musso returned for a touchdown last week.

The other third

Wisconsin is also without its starting field goal kicker, junior Rafael Gaglianone, who will miss the rest of the season for back surgery. While his status was still up in the air last week, Chryst played aggressively on offense, going 2-of-2 on fourth downs. Gaglianone’s backup, senior Andrew Endicot, did attempt one which he made from 41 yards out. It was the first of his career.

Freshman punter Anthony Lotti ranks last in the Big Ten with a 39.0-yard punt average, though he has downed four of nine inside the 20 with no touchbacks.

Peavy handles the punt return duties, averaging 4.8 yards per return, while Ogunbowale averages 22.8 yards per kick return.


Michigan and Wisconsin feature two of the nation’s best defenses, but I’m not sold on the offenses the Badgers have faced to date. That’s not saying that their defense isn’t great. But Michigan’s offense is light years better than those of LSU, Akron, Georgia State, and Michigan State. Michigan may not score the 52 points it averages, but it will move the ball semi-consistently and put a little bit of humility into Wisconsin’s defense. Look for a lot more Jabrill Peppers as a ball carrier, receiver, and as a decoy as Jim Harbaugh finds ways to neutralize Wisconsin’s linebacker strength.

Defensively, Michigan matches up nicely with Wisconsin’s offense. Hornibrook hasn’t faced the type of pass rush Michigan brings and won’t have the same accuracy he displayed last week. Without a spread threat, the defense will be able to focus on bottling up Clement and forcing third-and-longs where the Wolverines excel.

The first half will remain a close, defensive battle, but Michigan’s offense will find enough to pull away in the second. Wilton Speight will take care of the ball and put together a nice stat line with Jake Butt being his favorite target.

Michigan 33 – Wisconsin 13

Five-Spot Challenge 2016: Wisconsin

Monday, September 26th, 2016

Congratulations to JD Mackiewicz for winning last week’s Five-Spot Challenge. His deviation of 96 was 13 points better than second place Wolfetd. JD Mackiewicz was only one away from Jabrill Peppers’ all-purpose yards (54), six away from Saquon Barkley’s rushing yards (59), and 16 away from Penn State’s second half total yards (141). He wins a prize box of product from our sponsors, Lane’s BBQCultivate Coffee & Tap House, and Chayder Grilling Company.

Tooty_pops and Wolfetd were the closest to Barkley’s rushing yards (four away). HTTV137 and Jaeschke were both just one away from Penn State’s second half yards. Nobody correctly predicted that Matt Godin (number 99) would record Michigan’s first sack. Zigmun and Maizenblu62 were the closest with their predictions of 96 (Ryan Glasgow). Chris Wormley had the most predictions (10 of 33). Finally, DBenney09 was the only contestant to correctly predict the length of Kenny Allen’s longest punt (44 yards).

All 33 contestants picked Michigan to win by an average score of Michigan 42 – Penn State 17. No one correctly predicted the score, but BadBlu was the closest with his prediction of 49-13. Had Penn State kicked another field goal he would have had his highest deviation reduced to zero and moved all the way up to fourth place for the week.

The weekly results and season standings have been updated.

This week, Michigan hosts No. 8 Wisconsin in what should be a tough defensive battle. Here are this week’s questions.