Hey look at that, Michigan managed to dominate a team not named Nebraska. How we feeling, gang? Halfway point in the season already and got ourselves a prime time matchup and a sure fire gut check/measuring stick game to make the “Is Michigan good yet” picture clearer. Gameday coming to town, which in the past has been a bit of a curse, but puts the spotlight square on Michigan for a weekend. What’re the hopes and dreams? Take it away…
Kevin: Before we dive into the game, a warm-up: I want some of you geniuses to put down a couple Gameday sign ideas, because that’s fun!
PAUL CHRYST IS A FINE COACH AND I HARBOR NO ILL WILL TOWARD HIM BUT WISCONSIN STILL SUCKS
WHEN MICHIGAN IS DONE WITH YOU THE ONLY TEAM FROM WISCONSIN LEFT WITH A SHOT AT A TITLE WILL BE THE BREWERS
Josh: Finally, guys. A game against a good enough team where we we will finally get a look at what this Michigan team is capable of— good or bad. To me at least, that Notre Dame loss feels like an eternity ago. Week one, the Wolverines couldn’t keep Shea upright, the holes weren’t there for the run game and the defense looked shell shocked at times in that game to be honest.
Fast forward to now, coming off a string of games where they’ve dominated and faced adversity, this feels like a team that is peaking at the right time both offensively and defensively. And with that being said, I’m feeling pretty confident heading into the game Saturday. How are you guys feeling about it?
Kevin: I’m afraid we said they were peaking midway through last season, too, and they couldn’t get it done down the stretch. Michigan is in a prime spot once again to both pass a major eye test and be in complete control of their own destiny. Feeling a bit better this time around myself...defense is locked in and so is the coaching staff. Wisconsin has always been my measuring stick for what a Big Ten team should look like...moreso than Ohio State. Michigan still isn’t on their level yet, but this is a chance to make that gap even smaller.
Daniel A: So, to me, the most impressive thing so far has been the growth of the offensive line. While not as good as Notre Dame, both Maryland and Nebraska have a lot of pass rushing talent. The big boys up front have really stepped up their game and gave Shea plenty of opportunities to make plays down field. I cannot wait to see them get tested further these next few weeks. I think they’re the one unit that has been challenged by opposing talent the last couple weeks, and they’ve responded.
I said at the beginning of the year, after losing to the Irish, that I would not pick Michigan to beat a “contending” team until they prove it. I’ve been wrong too many times, and I’m sticking to my word. I need to see a fast start, as the last two weeks have been quite worrisome. I know that the yardage was there against the Terps, but that won’t matter against top teams if you don’t score points. In my dream scenario, we defer to the second half, the defense gets a quick stop, and then the offense goes for it all on first down. Open with a statement.
Dan P: Us Daniel’s really think alike. Michigan has to get up early in this game. Wisconsin has incredible clock management and is capable of controlling games from start to finish if opponents allow them to. It will be crucial for Michigan to take advantage of every opportunity and put the ball in the end zone.
The key to the game defensively is to force Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook to throw the football. Which in correlation mean that the Michigan defense has to stop Jonathan Taylor on the early downs.
Our secondary will be able to eat up how inaccurate Hornibrook is, especially with downfield throws. The redshirt junior threw 15 interceptions last season, but has straightened that out a bit this year with only two so far. While there is a lot of improvement their, he still gets flustered in a heavy pass rush. That is obviously something this Wolverines defense excels at.
Kevin: I hope Michigan looked at film of what BYU did to the Badgers. Granted it took a bit of luck for the Cougars to hang on, but they kept the pressure on. Iowa couldn’t close the door on Hornibrook, and he made them pay. How does Michigan not let that happen? Keep the football for an eternity and no bail-out penalties. I will be livid if there’s another 100-plus yards in penalties, and that also will probably mean Michigan won’t have a chance to win.
Josh: Yeah I agree for the most part, Kevin. The Badgers weakness on offense for the most part has been the inconsistent play of Quarterback Alex Hornibrook. I fully expect Don Brown and Michigan to stack the box, bringing the heat and keeping Jonathan Taylor in check. That in turn will force Hornibrook to force it in the passing game and I just can’t trust him to come through when it counts for them.
Sam D: I said my piece on Wisconsin in the preview. While Michigan holds advantages most everywhere, the injury situation at tackle plays right into the Badgers’ hands. An All-American line and Jonathan Taylor running up the gut can shorten the game, keep the offense off the field and keep the game within a score in the fourth quarter.
With that said, the BYU loss wasn’t that fluky. Cougar back Squally Canada -- who’s an awesome rapper, by the way -- led a 191-yard effort on the ground, which is in line with what Wisconsin has allowed, so far. The game is just indicative that their defense isn’t a vintage Badger defense. Without Tim Tibesar, the position coach who produced the linebacker factory in Madison, this defense will revert to the good, not great levels of pre-Chryst Wisconsin.
On a side note: This series has been fun the last decade. There’s boatloads of mutual respect between Harbaugh and Chryst, and a healthy back and forth. The teams have split their last 10 meetings.
Leave your best Gameday sign ideas in the comments, because this may be the only week they visit Ann Arbor. And remember two things: Show up early, be loud. Also, don’t make fun of anyone’s mother. That is dumb.