Welcome back to another edition of Behind Enemy Lines. As you all know, each week I interview someone from a fellow SB Nation site to find out more regarding Michigan's match up on football Saturday.
For this week's game against the Wisconsin Badgers, I interviewed Owen Riese, a contributor over at Buckys5thQuarter.com. So without any further ado, let's jump right in.
Josh LaFond: Despite being 10-0, Wisconsin has had their fair share of struggles throughout the year. Are Wisconsin fans happy with how the season is going?
Owen Riese: I think for the most part the answer is yes. The passing game has shown improvements but is wildly inconsistent. The other main concern with this team is that it has proven to be very turnover prone, something a team that plays like Wisconsin can't have happen due to the deliberate pace of play the Badgers utilize. Wisconsin fans are unbearable when talking about the quarterback positions since Russell Wilson played here one season, and now that's what every Badger quarterback is supposed to be.
So while the general feeling may appear negative to those who know where to (or don't) look, I think the feeling about this team is overall a positive one. This team has performed well, though this type of season could be seen as a possibility after the schedule was released.
Josh: Grad transfer stud? Michigan fans know a little bit about that with the success Jake Rudock had.
Jonathan Taylor has been one of the best running backs in the conference this year, did fans see this coming or has he been a surprise?
Owen: This is one that fans did not see coming. The story is that he really flashed during a scrimmage that was closed to the public, but that the Big Ten Network crew was at and saw. Taylor's buzz then started to grow and by the next week, he'd been added to the depth chart as a 2nd string back with Chris James. Then against Utah State in the opener, it became immediately evident (to me at least) that he was up and away the best back on the roster, and that wasn't a knock on Bradrick Shaw or Chris James. He's so smooth and seems to glide once he's out in front of everyone. He's a two-time New Jersey 100m State Champion who can run through arm tackles and bounce off defenders. He has every chance to leave Wisconsin as the best back that's been here, including Ron Dayne. However, he likely won't be around all four years to get that far.
Josh: Well, I'm a huge fan of his game, there's no doubt in my mind he won't make it at the next level.
Is Alex Hornibrook good enough to lead the Badgers to a Big Ten title?
Owen: Hopefully he is. The Badgers clinched the Big Ten West with Saturday's drubbing of the Hawkeyes. However, how much of that success is immediately credited to Hornibrook? That's likely a different story. He's been better this season, and the arm strength seems improved from 2016. Right now, to use a basketball analogy, I think Hornibrook is still working on his shot selection.
He's finally gotten to the point where he won't be pulled for taking a bad shot (Bart Houston graduating), but he's still taking some bad shots. He's interception prone but I think his best attribute has been his resiliency, as he seemingly always bounces back from an interception with a touchdown drive or a nice throw.
Josh: Michigan fans went through this with their last starting QB, we feel your pain.
How big of a loss is (wide receiver) Jazz Peavy?
Owen: I think if you'd have asked me this in September, my response would be a bit different than it is today. Peavy has really been a non-factor all season, even when he played. He's been away from the team with some personal issues, and apparently played through an injury prior to that. It's been a youth movement at the position for Wisconsin, who is now without Quintez Cephus, their best wide out, for the rest of the year. It'll all been put on sophomore A.J. Taylor, true freshman Danny Davis, redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor and recently walk-on redshirt freshman Adam Krumholz. The Badger passing attack has been fine without Peavy, though that has come as a shock to most of the fan base, admittedly.
Josh: Wow. Well as you can tell so far, Michigan has a lot of similarities to Wisconsin, one of those is the injuries in the receiving corps.
What’s the confidence level of Badger fans heading into the game Saturday?
Owen: Honestly, this is a tough question to answer. The Badgers are a tough team to figure out for me; they'll be playing less than stellar, and they'll score early in the 4th quarter and it's wild to me they'll have just gone over 30 points. I think defensively Michigan is going to give Wisconsin a lot of problems with their athleticism and quickness up front. Maurice Hurst is unlike anything the Badgers have seen up front, and I expect him to be in the backfield all game long.
On the flip side, I think Michigan's offense is in for a world of hurt against this Badger defense, that surrendered 66 (!!!) yards of offense to Iowa on Saturday. The unit is playing with a ton of swagger, and for a passing offense that's been a bit rough with Brandon Peters, Wisconsin can key in on Karan Higdon, Chris Evans and Ty Isaac.
Josh: Wisconsin's defense has been on fire this year, I'm interested to see how they fair against Michigan's ground and pound attack.
As the saying goes, "you don't gotta go home but you can't stay here." Let's wrap this up with one last thing, Owen. Give us your score and game prediction.
Owen: To quote Good Ol' Jim Ross, this game is going to be "bowling shoe ugly." I expect a Wisconsin victory by a score of 16-10. Like last season's affair, the offenses will struggle to move the ball, but the kicking game will be the difference, and Rafael Gaglianone has shown he is confident kicking in clutch situations.
I would like to extend my sincere thanks to editor Mike Fiametta for setting this interview up, and also to contributor Owen Riese for allowing me to interview him. Head on over to Buckys5thQuarter.com for all of your pre-game need-to-know info, and check out Mike's interview with me.
Be sure to tune in next week for an interview with LandGrantHolyLand.com, the Ohio State SB Nation affiliate, as we dissect everything heading into The Game.