By Aidan Champion
No. 14 Michigan will head on the road for an in-conference matchup with Wisconsin on Saturday in what will be its biggest test so far this season.
The Wolverines come into this week after managing to hold off Rutgers in the final game of their four-game home stretch. It wasn’t pretty, but the maize and blue found a way to get it done.
A 20-3 halftime lead likely led fans to believe Michigan had the game in its grasp, but a persistent Scarlet Knights team would say otherwise in the second half.
Rutgers held the Wolverines completely scoreless in the second half. It was the Michigan defense that stepped up, though, making critical plays when it needed to most.
While the win column grew for the Wolverines at the end of Week 4, it was not the performance you want just before heading on the road to face a Big Ten opponent like Wisconsin.
The Badgers may sit at 1-2 on the season, but they are a much better team than their record suggests. Wisconsin’s two losses came at the hands of two top 10 teams just three weeks apart.
Most recently, the Badgers fell to No. 9 Notre Dame in a game that played out far from what the outcome would depict.
The two teams were tied at 10 heading into the final quarter, and it was looking like the Fighting Irish had met its match against another ranked team, as Wisconsin was No. 18 at the time.The Badgers even took the lead with a field goal to start the fourth, but Notre Dame would then score on a 96-yard kick return for a touchdown by Chris Tyree. This would be start of the Fighting Irish’s 31-point fourth quarter scoring rampage.
When considering Wisconsin’s performance through three quarters on Saturday and its narrow loss to No. 4 Penn State in Week 1, it’s perfectly reasonable to predict a Week 5 upset for the Wolverines.
The wolverines are fourth in the nation in fewest opponent points allowed per game with an average of 11.8. They also rank fourth in the nation in rushing yards per game with 290.8.
Unfortunately for Michigan, though, Wisconsin stands out as the No. 1 team in the country in rushing defense. Should the Badgers limit Michigan’s biggest strength on Saturday, the offense will have to look to making plays in the air, an area the Wolverines have not been very productive in.
Wolverine quarterback Cade McNamara has yet to throw for 200 passing yards in a game. The Michigan offense has been much too reliant on its rushing, as it averages only 16.2 passing attempts per game.
Jim Harbaugh’s squad has looked nearly perfect, but its resume so far is the only thing holding it back from being in top 10 consideration.
This weekend will make or break the argument for Michigan being a top contender in the Big Ten east, as it has the opportunity to answer a lot of questions that are currently up in the air.
The matchup takes place on Saturday at noon and can be watched on FOX.
Written by: Aidan Champion
Aidan is an MSU Journalism Student and Spartan Football writer for: impact89fm.org
Photo Courtesy of buckys5thquarter.com