The Michigan Wolverines have their biggest challenge of the season this weekend as they travel to Madison and take on the Wisconsin Badgers. Despite their 1-2 record, the Badgers pose a huge threat to Michigan in every aspect of the game — offense, defense and special teams. This is going to be a huge game for both teams and could very well affect how the rest of the season plays out in the Big Ten.
Here are the five Wolverines I will be watching closely this weekend.
I included Josh Ross in my players to watch against Rutgers, and I am including him once again this week. When he went out with his injury last weekend, it proved how valuable he is to the Wolverine defense. He is “probable” to play against Wisconsin, per Jim Harbaugh earlier this week. With how vital he is to the rest of the defense, and how Wisconsin’s offense operates, I will be closely watching Ross this Saturday. He could be the most important player for Michigan this weekend.
The signal-caller had a bit of happy feet last weekend against Rutgers. He was clearly uncomfortable in the second half, and he also missed a wide open Luke Schoonmaker in the end zone at the end of the first half for an easy touchdown. If the offense continues to stall out in this one, how will McNamara respond? This is a critical game for McNamara and the passing game to get back on track.
Wisconsin’s got some big dudes along the offense line, so it’s important Michigan’s big boys on the defensive interior are up to the task. Smith has been among the better of the interior defensive linemen through the first four games of the season with six tackles, one tackle for loss and two quarterback hits. Him and other guys like Chris Hinton and Kris Jenkins will be crucial for Michigan in this one.
The sophomore running back had his worst game of the season last weekend against Rutgers when they decided to stack the box with, what seemed like, their entire defense. Despite that, he still ended up with 68 rushing yards and two receptions for 11 yards. But how will Corum do against a defense like Wisconsin’s? The coaching staff has to put him in a better spot to succeed this weekend in Madison. More outside runs and screens would be good ways to get him the ball and utilize his skill set.
Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz isn’t off to a fantastic season passing the ball. So why am I including a cornerback on my list this week? Gray, in my opinion, is the best tackler among the cornerbacks Michigan currently has. He’s the only corner on the roster with any tackles for loss — granted it is only 0.5 — and is consistent in wrapping up defenders on quick passes. I don’t think Mertz will be launching too many deep balls, so I believe Gray could be a quietly-important player on defense this weekend if Wisconsin decides to do quicker passes to get the ball out of Mertz’ hand faster.