It’s been a while since the Wolverines took a trip to Camp Randall Stadium.
The Michigan football team hasn’t faced Wisconsin on the road since 2009, but that streak will finally be broken this Saturday.
The stage for the return couldn’t be much bigger. The fifth-ranked Badgers are out to defend an undefeated record. Michigan is dead set on winning out and hoping for some help that could place the Wolverines in contention for a Big Ten title. And for the second time this year, ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be on the scene prior to a Michigan kickoff.
The Wolverines boast a roster ready to get their first in-person taste of playing football in Madison.
“I actually visited Ben Bredeson, he has an older brother in my class,” said junior wide receiver Grant Perry. “I went back to his house a couple summers ago, met a couple of the Wisconsin players and they were all telling me about the “Jump Around” thing that they do, and how hype it gets. I’m excited for it personally.”
Added fifth-year senior Patrick Kugler: “I heard it’s awesome, one of the best environments in the country. … I’ve never played there (and) I’ve been here five years, so I was excited when we found out we were playing at Wisconsin. You want to play at every stadium and I haven’t had the opportunity to do that in the Big Ten unfortunately, even (in) five years.”
AN UNCONVENTIONAL TASK: Despite losing T.J. Watt and Vince Beagle to the NFL, the Badgers still return a plethora of talent on their defensive front.
Couple that with a true 3-4 scheme rarely seen consistently on the college level — one that Kugler said is “different than what we played all year” — and the Wolverines will have their hands full.
The formation functions so well, in large part, because of nose guard Olive Sagapolu. Kugler called him “a big boy,” and even that may be underselling it. At 6-foot-2 and 346 pounds, Sagapolu could prove to be a major test for the Wolverines’ offensive line.
Kugler and his unit are relishing that challenge.
“It’s exciting,” Kugler said. “Everyone always talks about Wisconsin’s O-line and how they’re always one of the best in the country, and we’re trying to throw our name in there too. I think we’re very capable and it’s gonna be a great battle on Saturday.
“They’re a very physical front on defense as well. And so it’s gonna be a great challenge for us, but it’s more exciting than anything.”
WHERE’S THE CALL?: Maryland didn’t make freshman wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones’ life easy.
On the Wolverines’ first drive of the game, Peoples-Jones was targeted on 1st-and-10 from Michigan’s 41-yard line. He wasn’t able to reel in what would have been a first-down reception, but was animated after the play, pleading for a pass interference call after seemingly having his jersey pulled.
Jim Harbaugh took exception to the no-call as well, expressing his frustrations to the referee on the sideline. And on Monday, Harbaugh articulated his dissatisfaction.
“There was one of those. There was another one where the DB had his hand on the back of his jersey, horse collared him and (he) wasn’t able to go catch the ball and make a play,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know what to tell him at that point. … Lift more weights so they don’t grab you and horse collar you from making a catch?”
As for Perry, he did find one silver lining to Saturday’s events.
“That’s respect because, you know, if they can’t guard you without holding you, that says something,” he said. “He’s gonna learn how to fight through that, and we’re definitely gonna work on that this week. It’s gonna be a tough, physical game in Madison, and we’re gonna be ready for it.”
RUIZ GETS THE NOD AGAIN: Cesar Ruiz got the first start of his career against Minnesota. He didn’t have to wait long for his second.
The freshman right guard got the starting nod again against the Terrapins, and continued to impress.
“I found out a lot of good things about Cesar,” Harbaugh said. “I’m very happy with the job he’s done. He’s acquitted himself very well.”
Ruiz’s second start was, once again, the byproduct of an injury Michael Onwenu sustained against Rutgers. Though Onwenu was dressed for the matchup against Maryland, Harbaugh said the sophomore wasn’t “100 percent.”
Harbaugh added that the rest was beneficial and that he anticipates Onwenu will be back this week. As for who will start against Wisconsin when Onwenu does return, Harbaugh cited that, as always, the Wolverines function as a meritocracy.
Either way, Ruiz’s performances to this point haven’t gone unnoticed.
“We knew since day one (when) he got here that he was a great talent,” Kugler said. “Sooner or later he was gonna get his opportunity, and we knew he was gonna take advantage of it when he did. He’s been doing a great job at right guard.”
INJURIES: Michigan continues to work through a slew of injuries, and Harbaugh provided updates on them Monday afternoon.
Lavert Hill exited Saturday’s game, and Harbaugh said that the sophomore cornerback is currently going through concussion protocol — though he did not indicate whether or not Hill will be available against the Badgers.
Ty Isaac, on the other hand, did not make the trip to College Park. Harbaugh said he received “positive news” on the fifth-year senior running back, and that he would know more as the week moves on.
The big question, of course, is the status of redshirt junior quarterback Wilton Speight. It appears not much has changed since last week, when Harbaugh said that Speight was cleared to throw but not for contact activity.
“(Freshman tight end Nick Eubanks) and Wilton will be in the same category this week,” Harbaugh said. “They’ll practice, they’ll be in a red jersey, they won’t have contact. I don’t know if either one will be cleared by the time we get to the game on Saturday, but they’ll be reintroduced back into practice per the doctor’s clearance for being able to practice but not being able to have contact.”