By the end of each football season, every team has sustained its fair share of injuries. But this season is especially bad for Michigan and Wisconsin, as both teams have injuries in key positions. It may not be the more talented team that wins, but the one with the more talented bench.
Michigan passing offense vs. Wisconsin passing defense: In the past two games, the Michigan offense has been relentless and ruthless, putting up 49 and 41 points against Michigan State and Minnesota, respectively. Quarterback John Navarre has continued his stellar season with five touchdown passes in those two games, finding wide receiver Ron Bellamy for three scores.
Despite the play of defensive back Jim Leonhard – who leads the Big Ten in interceptions – the Badgers feature the worst pass defense in the Big Ten and the Wolverines will take advantage.
Michigan rushing offense vs. Wisconsin rushing defense: With Chris Perry still not 100 percent, B.J. Askew has played well to make up for his absence. Askew strung together back-to-back 100-yard games and has found the end zone four times.
The Badgers allow nearly 150 yards per game on the ground, sixth in the Big Ten, and allowed Illinois’ Antoneo Harris to rush for 160 yards last game. Askew is similar to Harris as both are bruising backs that punish their tacklers.
Wisconsin passing offense vs. Michigan passing defense: With Jim Sorgi at the helm in replacement of Brooks Bollinger, Wisconsin has mustered fewer than 300 yards and zero touchdown passes in its past two games combined. The return of Bollinger should add a spark to the tired passing game and his mobility should give Michigan problems.
Last week Michigan’s secondary and linebackers played well through injuries and shut down the Gophers’ elusive quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq, who is a similar threat as Bollinger. If Michigan can force Bollinger to throw, it will win this battle.
Wisconsin rushing offense vs. Michigan rushing defense: The Badgers expect running back Anthony Davis to be healthy enough to play against Michigan after he was sideline with a stab wound in his leg. Running back Dwayne Smith rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns in Davis’ absence, but that performance came against the porous Illinois defense.
The Wolverines shut down Minnesota’s powerful running game and looks do the same to the Badgers. The Wolverines’ defensive line has been playing as well as it has all season and should continue its quality play.
Special teams: Although the Wolverines blocked their first punt of the season against Minnesota, the special teams unit still failed to shore up its holes. Kicker Adam Finley missed another field goal and punt returner Markus Curry called for a fair catch inside the Michigan 5-yard line.
Wisconsin’s kicking game hasn’t been spectacular, but Scott Campbell and Mike Allen have combined to go 14-for-21 on the season, which is far better than the Wolverines. Leonhard is second in the conference in punt return average.
Intangibles: Unlike last season, Michigan has not disappointed down the stretch, pummeling Minnesota and Michigan State. Wisconsin on the other hand, has collapsed. After starting the season 5-0, the Badgers are 1-5 in the Big Ten and will need to win one of their last two games to qualify for a bowl game – quite a change for a team that has been at the top of the conference in recent years.
Wisconsin is in a tailspin and will need a lot to happen to get a season-saving win against the Wolverines.
Michigan 38, Wisconsin 24